Forge voting complaints filed

Residents say they weren't allowed to vote on liquor issue
Nov. 08, 2012 @ 05:48 PM

The Sevier County Election Commission and state officials are investigating two formal complaints from voters who said they live in Pigeon Forge but did not get a chance to vote on the liquor by the drink referendum.

Sevier County Deputy Administrator of Elections Ed Kuncitis said Thursday that the office also had an informal complaint that one election worker was expressing a position on the election while working in the voting area.

Kuncitis confirmed the Election Commission had received two formal complaints on the residency issue. Several readers of The Mountain Press have emailed the paper saying either they were Pigeon Forge residents and the referendum was not on their ballot, or they lived outside the city and were given the chance to vote on it.

“We’re looking into it,” Kuncitis said. “We’re in communication with the state.”

A spokesperson for the Tennessee Secretary of State confirmed the office was aware of the complaints and, along with local officials, was looking into the matter.

Kuncitis said that a person who stopped by the Election Commission office said one person working at the Pigeon Forge polling site was taking a clear side on the election — Kuncitis said he didn’t recall whether the complainant said the worker was for or against it — and the poll worker allegedly was telling some voters from inside the city they could not vote because they had been “rezoned.”

Kuncitis said when he heard about that complaint, he called the polling place and told the person in charge that if anyone was acting improperly they should be told to stop and, if they refused to do so, they should be ordered to leave. State law says poll workers have to take an oath to be fair and impartial when working an election.

Two people who live on Mill Creek Road told The Mountain Press on Thursday they live inside the city limits on that road and were not allowed to vote on the referendum. Parts of Mill Creek Road are in the city and parts are not, but Pigeon Forge Planning Director David Taylor said the city limits weren’t changed ahead of the election. “Nothing has been de-annexed,” he said.

Andrea Wilson said she lives on Mill Creek Road, inside the city, and her husband was allowed to vote on the referendum during early voting. However, when she went to vote on election day, the referendum wasn’t on her ballot. She said she told an official at the polling place, but he pulled her information and told her she wasn’t supposed to vote on it.

“The guy pulled my card and said, are you Andrea Wilson, and he pulled my card and said, ‘I’ll tell you what I’ve told everybody else — you’ve been rezoned and you don’t get a vote,’” she said.

She did not say how she intended to vote, but said she had contacted members of Forging Ahead, a group formed to support the measure, to tell them she wasn’t allowed to vote.

Jean Maples also lives on Mill Creek Road and has voted in city elections for eight years. She said she was furious when she and her husband were told they couldn’t vote; she said she planned to vote against liquor by the drink.

“I was really upset that day,” she said. She voted against the referendum the last two times it was on the ballot, and said she believed that was why she was not allowed to vote this time.

Like Wilson, Maples said an election official told her she had been “rezoned” and didn’t vote in the city anymore.

Another person said he lives on Snapp Road, which is in the county but in the planning region for Sevierville, but he voted on the referendum. He asked The Mountain Press not to use his name in the story.

It wasn’t clear Thursday what the complaints or the investigation might mean in terms of certifying the results of the referendum. Voters approved the measure Tuesday by a vote of 1,232-1,132.

However, some complainants who filed online comments to The Mountain Press stories online or sent emails have questioned whether the referendum should be certified because of questions about alleged improper votes.