Some Tennessee voters in Davidson County, the second largest County in the state, voted with the wrong ballots in early voting for the 2022 midterms. 212 ballots were incorrectly cast in early midterm elections in Davidson County, TN, due to redistricting. According to Davidson County election administrator Jeff Roberts, some voters were given the wrong ballots. “Nothing can be done,” said Roberts, and the ballots will be counted. The error was reported and has since been corrected. Unfortunately, the same discrepancy was likely present in both the May and August primaries—although there were no complaints in those elections. Davidson County was “completely redrawn during redistricting, adding 18 precincts,” said Roberts

During an interview with NewsChannel 5 on November 1, Roberts explained when someone complained at the polls, his staff immediately began a “deep dive” investigation to correct the problem. He also said that he would have to go back after the election to “deconstruct the process to see exactly where the error occurred.” Roberts continued:

“It began with a problem in the 6th and 7th congressional race. The address that we have on our database assigns you to a specific precinct. Within that precinct, a specific ballot is assigned. Our address and precinct assignments did not match exactly with what the controller had. That caused some voters to not get the correct ballot.”

He added that the error was likely due to human error somewhere in the process of verifying information after redistricting. The 7th Congressional District features a contest between Democratic candidate Odessa Kelly and Republican U.S. Rep. Mark Green. Kelly blamed GOP gerrymandering for the problem in a November 2 post on Twitter.

According to NewsChannel 5, Roberts said, “more than 200 votes have been cast wrong in the November race,” providing the following numbers:

  • 190 voters cast ballots in the wrong congressional race.
  • 16 votes were cast in the wrong Senate race.
  • 6 cast votes in the wrong state House Race.

UncoverDC spoke with GOP Chairman Jim Garrett about the issue. He spoke briefly with Roberts on Thursday morning to confirm the issue. Garrett confirmed that the problem likely occurred in the preceding two primaries. He mentioned that in the May school board election, Republican candidate Mark Woodward “lost by only 6 votes so, in races with small margins, the potential impact is great.” Garrett told UncoverDC that while it is never good to disenfranchise even one voter, a “discrepancy of 200 votes is unlikely to impact the midterm election.” Garrett also confirmed that while the County might be able to rerun the election, there is “really no way to eliminate the ballots that have already been cast.

Garrett believes that errors like this would likely be caught earlier if the County were to avoid using Voting Centers in early elections. Precincts involve a much smaller universe of voters, and it is, therefore, much easier to identify problems. Unlike some of the other 94 counties, Davidson County voters vote only at precincts on election day. Garrett also pointed out that voters may want to be more aware of the candidates on their ballots, particularly after redistricting, adding, “At what point does it become the voter’s responsibility to be more aware of who they are voting for?”

Mark Woodward/https://ballotpedia.org/Mark_Woodward_(Tennessee)

Roberts told NewsCenter 5 that any time errors occur, it bothers him greatly:

“Any time you don’t have perfect in an operation, it gives me plenty of concern. It is what we strive for. We had staff here until early morning to correct the issue so that when voters came out for the early vote today, they could feel confident they would get the correct ballot. But every individual is prone to a mistake. This is not something that they have swept under the rug, and hope it goes away. They are not hiding what’s going on. They are sitting down and inviting the press to come over and let us tell you what we experienced and what we’ve done to fix it.”

Is Redistricting Causing Errors Elsewhere in the U.S.?

Davidson County may not be alone in its challenges because of redistricting. Reportedly, similar issues have arisen in Riley County, KS, Tulare County, CA, Broward County, Fla., and D.C., to name just a few. Riley County identified 10 out of the 101 registered voters in the redistricted area to have voted in the wrong district stating the following on the Riley County government website, “The clerical error has been corrected, and the remaining 91 voters will receive the ballot for the 66th District in the state representative race. The 10 people who have already cast their ballot will not be eligible to vote again.”

Tulare County reported that “roughly a dozen Tulare County voters were reissued a ballot after a geographical error was made at the elections office. Ballots were sent out on October 11, and by Monday, Tulare County Registrar of Voters was notified of the mistake,” according to Registrar of Voters Michelle Baldwin.

In Broward County, some “eagle-eyed voters” reported the issue. Debbie Eisinger, former Mayor of Cooper City, said she received the wrong ballot in the mail. “Voters in certain precincts in Fort Lauderdale were affected.” It was not a county-wide problem. In an interview in July, Broward County Supervisor of Elections Joe Scott spoke about the problem and the solution. He said it was the “very first election after the redistricting process” with a short period of time to identify errors. “When we’re dealing with 1.2 million voters and 31 different cities, anything that might go wrong tends to impact thousands of people,” Scott said. ” That’s not the case here. In this case, what it actually impacted were individual streets.” He said that in this case, the vote-by-mail system helped with errors because it actually helped identify the issue before the early voting in person.

In October, the D.C. Board of Elections reportedly “mailed incorrect ballots to 574 voters, due to mistakes matching residents to their new electoral districts after the city completed its decennial redistricting process several months ago. Board of Elections Executive Director Monica Evans said that her “staff is emailing and calling each affected voter directly to make sure they know that the ballot they received in the mail is wrong and won’t be counted if they turn it in.” The city mailed the correct ballots to voters after the error was found.

*Wendi Strauch Mahoney serves on the Davidson County Executive Board with Chairman Garrett.