MEMPHIS, TN (abc24.com) - There's been no wrong-doing on the part of the Shelby County Election Commission, election officials say, after claims the commission altered or erased the voting records of nearly 500 people.
Since that announcement there have been protests and calls for a federal investigation.
The commission’s chairman says it went through every single record and found they were not erased. While those records are in the commission's voter registration database, which is used in elections, they were missing from what's called the "all details report."
That document is released every month to help candidates for office determine voting habits and preferences.
“The fact of the matter is, we're trying to be very transparent here at the election commission,” said Robert Meyers, who heads up the Shelby County Election Commission. He says without a doubt, none of the 488 voters in question had their records erased from its database used for elections.
The real issue now is, why was the all details report missing those records?
“That is, I think, a legitimate question,” Meyers said.
There are about 500,000 voters’ histories on the document. It tracks voting habits in every election dating back 12 years. Meyers said, “When you push out that much data sometimes glitches happen and the data comes out incomplete.”
'Glitches and voting records,' Shelby County Democrat Van Turner has heard that before.
“A couple of years ago you had a glitch with people who went to vote and they were told they already voted and so they left the voting polls,” Turner said.
That led to a lawsuit against the Election Commission, although it later failed.
Meyers says the commission is investigating the problem. It may have stemmed from how information was entered during a Memphis City School Board election.
He's pleading with the public to not lose faith in the system.
“Our whole goal is to try to allay people's fears that we're doing something nefarious. We're not,” Meyers said.
As for blogger Bev Harris, who first raised concerns about the missing voter records, she was once on the Shelby County Democratic Party’s payroll. The chairman says just because she discovered the problem doesn't mean there was a political agenda behind it.
The Election Commission is run by both Democrats and Republicans, but Republicans make up the majority of the commission.
9th District Congressman Steve Cohen (D-TN) also issued a statement regarding allegations of voter record inaccuracies.
“It is imperative that citizens feel confident that their right to vote is intact and that records which ensure their right to vote are beyond reproach,” said Congressman Cohen. “I have known Administrator Holden for more than 30 years and regret that he has seen any inquiry into the accuracy of the voter files as political. That is absolutely not the case. Earlier this year, my office received voter records which we found to be incomplete and brought that to the attention of Administrator Holden who assured us that the problem had been ‘identified, corrected, and procedures revised to prevent any future issue.’ And Administrator Holden recently told the media that voting records given to the public were wrong but that the voting files used by the Commission are accurate and up-to-date.”
Congressman Cohen continued, “It was disappointing when I learned that Bev Harris, the Director of Black Box Voting, had found that the voting histories of close to 500 Shelby County residents were missing. Because voters who have not voted in a specific period of time are to be purged from the rolls, it is imperative that such voting history must be accurate and complete. As the Election Commission continues to examine its records and procedures, I look forward to updates from Administrator Holden which will lay to rest any questions in the minds of Shelby County citizens. Without total confidence in the integrity of the electoral process, I fear that some may be discouraged from voting. It would be tragic if any citizen felt denied of this most important constitutional right that ensures that ours is a government of the people, by the people and for the people.”