No new voting machines in re-vote

Issue dies for lack of second
Feb. 07, 2013 @ 06:24 PM

Pigeon Forge voters now know for certain they’ll be using the same machines when they vote on the issue a second time. A new motion to use different machines in the March 14 election died for lack of a second when the Sevier County Election Commission met Thursday.

The same motion was defeated on a 2-2 vote at the commission’s last meeting on a split, as Joe Newman and John Huff voted against the new machines and Darrell Whitchurch and Mike Fitzgibbons voted in favor. However, Chairman J.B. Matthews was absent and the commission agreed to consider the issue again when he was present.

While Whitchurch was on the losing side of the last vote — a tie vote means a motion is defeated — he offered the motion again at Thursday’s meeting. However, Fitzgibbons was not present when the meeting started as scheduled at 4:30 p.m. and didn’t arrive until it ended at about 4:50. Without his presence, the motion died for lack of a second. Matthews, back in his role of chairman, said that would be the final consideration on the matter.

“We will use our machines we used in the last election,” he said. The commission could still use the new machines in one of the upcoming regular city elections.

Huff said he still believed the commission shouldn’t make a change of machines in the new election. The last referendum was tossed after the commission acknowledged poll workers allowed ineligible voters from outside the city to vote on the municipal referendum. With all the increased scrutiny and pressure, Huff and Newman had previously indicated they didn’t think it was a good idea to change to a new machine that hadn't yet been used in any election in Tennessee.

Whitchurch and Fitzgibbons had said they believed the machines were a bargain because the manufacturer was offering to let them train personnel and use the machines for free and the scan voting machines allow them to have a paper trail of ballots to review in a recount.

Matthews said he had only recently gotten a copy of a letter addressed to him that Fitzgibbons had presented in January, while the chairman was out of town.

Fitzgibbons said outside the election commission office that he believed the commission should have waited until he was there to vote. “They’re avoiding this issue, plain and simple,” he said.

Election officials indicated at the start of the meeting that they understood he was on his way to the meeting. Both he and Whitchurch said the commission has waited on tardy members before starting a meeting.

In the only other matter before the commission, the group approved additional poll workers for the new referendum; personnel have been picking top workers from outside the city to oversee the revote.

jfarrell@themountainpress.com