Friday, September 29, 2006

September 29, 2006 Change in Date for Selection of Special Master

There has been a change in the date/deadline for Selection of a Special Master in the Election Contest filed by Edwin Osborne and Bobby Reinhardt.

Scroll down to see previous posts of September 26 and 27 for background on the Election Contest and trial testimony.

The Master will supervise the court-ordered recount in County Commission race District 1 (Osborne v. Lebel) and District 4 (Reinhardt v. Sexton).

The Master will also examine the Microvote voting machines (new and old) in Hamblen County.

The new date or deadline for selection of the Master is apparently October 4. [Originally, a Saturday, September 30, date was shown in the Memorandum Opinion. ]

Expect the recount of machine and paper ballots to proceed quickly once the Master is appointed by the Chancellor since the machines have to be ready to go for the November election.

Wednesday, September 27, 2006

September 27, 2006 Hamblen County Election (III)

The previous posts (I) and (II) reported the chancellor's ruling in the Election Contest filed by Edwin Osborne and Bobby Reinhardt.

I attended the September 22 trial. It was an excellent pressentation of evidence and testimony about what happened on Aug. 3 during vote-counting.

County Commissioner Nancy Phillips was there in the morning, and County Mayor David Purkey was there at different times during the day.

Since I did not run for re-election, I was not at the Courthouse after the polls closed on Aug. 3.

At the trial, the atmosphere was referred to as a "zoo." Several people who were there agreed with that assessment. A witness testifying on behalf of the Election Commission stated that it was "controlled chaos."

If you are regular blog reader, you know that numbers are important to me---see the July 8, 2005, post where I spotted and got corrected the $1 million dollar mistake by the state in setting the county's certified tax rate in 2005.

Numbers were important in the Election Contest trials. Numbers, documents, and vote tallies that came out of the Election Commission Office on August 3 were put into evidence.

Two documents were unusual. One said that 95% of the precincts had reported and that total of 10,945 votes had been cast. Another document said that 100% of the precincts had reported and 10,620 votes had been cast. There is a problem here---a computer glitch, human error, or some other problem.

Exhibit 7 (which was retrieved for Commissioner Osborne from a recycling box by Election Administrator Wanda Neal) showed that 731 votes were cast in District 1 and 375 were cast in District 4.

Exhibit 5, however, showed that 466 votes were cast in District 1, and 319 were cast in District 4.

How do you go from a report of 731 votes cast to a report of only 466 votes cast? How do you go from 375 votes cast to only 319 votes cast?

The explanation, hopefully, will come from the Special Master who will conduct the recount, check the machines, and check the paper ballots.

Perhaps the contradictory documents and totals that were put out at various times may be explained by human error, plain old mistakes, transposition of numbers, stress and rushing.

Whatever the explanation of the differing information on the reports that were provided that night, events such as this should be resolved.

A recount and an examination of the machines should answer many of the questions about the "controlled chaos" of August 3.

With electronic data and computerization, there needs to be some understanding and an explanation of how one set of numbers came out of the machines at one point in time and another smaller set of numbers came out later.

It seems plausible to have smaller vote totals during the early steps of the counting process and then larger vote totals later on as all votes are counted.

It is difficult, however, to understand how you can have larger vote totals in the early part of the counting process and then smaller vote totals in the end.

September 26, 2006 Hamblen County Election Contest (II)

Readers should scroll down and read my previous post (Hamblen County Election Contest I) before reading the trial details provided in this post.

An Election Contest complaint was filed by attorney Paul Whetstone on behalf of County Commissioners Edwin Osborne (1st district) and Bobby Reinhardt (4th district) in connection with the Aug. 3 election. A Trial was held in Hamblen County on September 22. Most of the allegations of Osborne and Reinhardt are found in my previous post (I).

After hearing the testimony of the Petitioners (Osborne and Reinhardt) and petitioners' witnesses as well as the testimony of Respondents (Wanda Neal, Randall Johnson, and Dwaine Evans, Gayle Bruce) and respondents' witnesses, the Court delivered a Memorandum Opinion on September 26.

In his Opinion, Chancellor Corlew pointed out that Petitioners Edwin Osborne and Bobby Reinhardt testified in a firm and straightforward manner. He added that Respondent Wanda Neal testified in a matter of fact but "mildly confrontational manner" and that Election Commissioner Randall Johnson was "vigorous" in his own defense when questioned about his vocal support of a political candidate (Petitioner Osborne's opponent) while serving as a member of the election commission.

The Chancellor pointed out several reasons for the delay in tabulating the election results on August 3. One problem was the length of the Aug. 3 ballot. Other delays occurred because two types of Microvote machines were being used in Hamblen County for the first time.

In addition, delays resulted from Microvote software problems as well as issues connected with the two Microvote "contract employees" who had been provided to help in the tabulation of votes from the new Infinity machines.

Administrator of Elections Wanda Neal stated that these two workers were unfamiliar with the process for tabulating the vote. She also stated that it was her hope that Microvote would send other personnel to Morristown for the November election.

The Chancellor acknowledged the longer-than-normal delay in reporting the final results from the Aug. 3 election but stated that the delay, standing alone, is not significant.

What caused concern for the Chancellor were the clearly erroneous voting reports that were given out at various times during the night.

One of the first reports to be issued that night was a report of early voting totals.

Petitioner Osborne and 11th district commission candidate J. B. Elmore testified that they saw an early voting printout that had the candidates' names reversed and also had clearly erroneous early voting totals for their districts.

Osborne and Elmore pointed out to WCRK reporter Mike Rypel that the vote totals for each of their races were clearly wrong. As a result, Rypel did not report the first totals he had been given on air but, instead, took the report back in to the Election Commission office.

Election Commission Chair Dwaine Evans agreed that the early voting totals in commission races were wrong on this initial report but stated that the names were not reversed.

The Election Commission apparently no longer has a copy of the first erroneous early voting report that Osborne, Elmore, and Evans reviewed.

Later, another printout was provided to the press and to the candidates by the Election Commission. Osborne and Elmore testified that the names were listed in the correct order on the new printout but that the vote totals were still clearly erroneous.

The Chancellor stated that these factors and other coincidences that occurred that night cause the mind "not to rest easy as to the vote count. Thus, because of the combination of all these factors, we find that the Petitioners have carried the burden with respect to their demand for a recount."

In regard to Reinhardt's request that the election be voided due to the Election Commission allowing the use of machine ballots and paper ballots during early voting, the Chancellor stated that this could be interpreted as a violation of T.C.A. section 2-16-104 (which states that the county election commission shall choose one method of early voting, i.e.a race shall be on machine ballots, or a race shall be on paper ballots, or some races shall be on machine ballots and other races on paper ballots).

However, the Chancellor did not void the election because of this possible violation. There was no evidence of fraud in the casting of the two paper ballots, and the individuals would have likely voted by machine had they been required to do so.

The Chancellor did note that this was a very "sensitive" issue because Reinhardt lost by exactly two votes. If the two paper ballots had been for Reinhardt's opponent and if the Election Commission had chosen not to count them, then Reinhardt's race would have ended in a tie on August 3.

The Chancellor also refused to void the election on the basis of Election Commissioner Randall Johnson's vigorous support of Osborne's opponent Paul Lebel who is a business partner of Mr. Johnson's son (Morristown Mayor Gary Johnson).

The Chancellor discussed the importance of elected and appointed officials avoiding "even the appearance of impropriety" in carrying out their duties. While he noted Mr. Johnson's right of free speech, he also pointed out that the "better rule is that of maintaining neutrality and detachment in respect for the grave duties and responsibilities placed upon one as an election commissioner."

Several exhibits (mostly Election Commission documents) at the trial were contradictory.

For example, one document showed that 10,945 total votes had been cast with only 95% of precincts reporting.

You would expect, then, to see a higher number of votes when all precincts had reported.

Instead, another document showed that fewer votes----10,620 votes---- had been cast with 100% of precincts reporting.


The Chancellor determined that the election should not be voided but that there should be a recount. The attorneys for the parties shall get together and agree upon a special Master. If they can't agree, then they will submit names to the Chancellor and a decision on appointment of a Master will be made by the end of the day on September 30.

The Master will conduct a machine and and paper ballot recount. The parties and their attorneys may be present.

The Master will also examine each of the machines used in District 1 (Osborne-Lebel) and District 4 (Reinhardt-Sexton) to make sure that when a voter pushes a button for Osborne that a vote is recorded for Osborne and likewise for Reinhardt.

September 26, 2006 Hamblen County Election Contest Ruling (I)

Just got it! The Memorandum Opinion of Chancellor Robert Corlew.

Chancellor Corlew ruled in connection with the September 22 Trial regarding the Complaint for Election Contest filed by former county commissioners Edwin P. Osborne and Bobby Reinhardt against Wanda Neal (Hamblen County Administrator of Elections) and the Hamblen County Election Commission (Dwaine Evans, Randall Johnson, Gayle Bruce, Lyle Doty, and Judy Blackburn).

In the complaint former county commissioners Edwin Osborne and Bobby Reinhardt alleged various problems on Election Night, August 3.

Among their concerns were *two power outages in the Election Commission offices during the vote counting process, *allegedly unqualified individuals provided by Microvote to handle and/or assist with the vote-counting, *the open support by Election Commissioner Randall Johnson of County Commissioner Edwin Osborne's opponent Paul Lebel (who is a business partner of Mayor Gary Johnson, Randall Johnson's son), *problems with the Microvote vote-counting software, and, perhaps most troublesome of all, *the presentation of numerous conflicting, incomplete, and contradictory voting tallies throughout the night from the time that the first early voting totals were given out (about 9:30 pm on August 3) up until a final total was provided at nearly 2:00 am on the morning of August 4.

Here is the quick summary of the chancellor's Memorandum Opinion:

The Court found that numerous circumstances surrounding the election gave cause for concern, but there was not sufficient cause demonstrated to void the election.

Although the Court did not find fraud, the Court found that "due to a combination of misfortunes which occurred after the polls closed on election night, a recount of the votes is in order. Therefore, a Master will be appointed who will conduct the recount and will make findings of fact and conclusions of law which will be reported to the Court."

Check my post Hamblen County Election Contest (II) for additional information on the evidence that was presented and the ruling.

Tuesday, September 19, 2006

September 18, 2006 Tennessee Trivia Answers

And the answers to Friday's Tennessee Trivia Quiz are:

The smallest county in area in Tennessee is Trousdale (114 square miles).
The largest county in area in Tennessee is Shelby (755 square miles).

Shelby County is in west Tennessee, and Memphis is its county seat.

Trousdale is in middle Tennessee (just northeast of Davidson County/Nashville), and Hartsville is its county seat.

Friday, September 15, 2006

September 15, 2006 Tennessee Trivia Question

I haven't blogged for a while, but as soon as the Florida game is over, it will be blogging catch-up time.

Right now, though, it's Trivia Time in Tennessee!

Hamblen County is the 3rd smallest county in Tennessee.

Question (two-parter):

What is the smallest county in area?
What is the largest county in area?

Send your answers to

The deadline for answers is Monday, September 18th--when the answers will be posted right here!