Flynn has plans to reduce mistakes in future

Jan. 09, 2013 @ 07:23 PM

With the Sevier County Election Commission acknowledging Wednesday that Pigeon Forge poll workers made mistakes that left the commission unable to confirm the validity of the results, Administrator Ronee Flynn outlined some of the steps she would take to see to it similar circumstances don’t arise again.

At a special meeting Wednesday afternoon, the commission voted to instruct attorney Dennis Francis to tell Chancellor Telford Forgety they could not confirm the validity of the results of the referendum, which the commission initially certified 1,232 to 1,132 in favor of liquor by the drink.

Concerned Churches and Citizens of Pigeon Forge, the group that opposed the measure, filed a contest of election based on issues including a claim that the election commission could not confirm that about 300 of the 2,364 people who cast ballots in the referendum were eligible to vote in the City of Pigeon Forge.

With its vote Wednesday, the election commission essentially acknowledges its poll workers made errors and allowed ineligible people to vote in the city election.

“Plain and simple the polling workers at the Pigeon Forge polling center either through inadvertence or neglect or misinformation ... it appears up until 1:30 that afternoon of the election pretty much just allowed everybody who came through the door to vote,” attorney Dennis Francis said.

Flynn said the poll workers were confused because it was the first time they had a municipal election on the same ballot as statewide and national general elections. The precinct, located at city hall, serves voters from outside the city as well as residents. That’s not typically an issue, she said, because past municipal elections have been held on different dates from state or national elections.

“Pigeon Forge hasn’t had to deal with that,” she said.

If it happens again in the future, she said, they will try to make sure the poll workers are better trained for the issues they could face.

“We’ll definitely do complete training. This time it was (complete) but we assumed they knew more than they did.”

She said she still defends her workers. “The election workers did all they could do,” she said. “It was just honest mistakes and human errors on that. I’d never put them down, the work they’ve put in. They always are good workers.

If Forgety decides to toss the election and schedule a new one, Flynn said she and her staff would be on site to oversee the workers. That wasn’t an option in the Nov. 6 election, with precincts throughout the county open.

She said she would also consider having some poll workers from other precincts that face that issue work at Pigeon Forge. Pittman Center faces the issue regularly, she said, because their elections are held on the same day as other votes.

If Forgety overturns the election, he is expected to set the date for a new election as part of the ruling.

jfarrell@themountainpress.com