“Don’t get me wrong,” said Election Commission Chairman Robert Meyers, “I am a Republican and I want all our Republican candidates to win. But in my job, I want to be above the fray. We want people to feel we hold fair and open elections. We always work in conjunction with the law.”
Meyers, the newly appointed chairman, addressed the Midtown Republican Club last night. He filled us in on what he is doing, the changes in election law and the upcoming October election.
He began by outlining what the Election Commission is. “It’s not a full time job. It’s a board, made up of 5 people. Three are from the majority party (in the state legislature) and two are from the minority party.” In addition to him as chairman, there are two Republicans: Steve Stamson and Dee Nollner. “Stamson has been there three years and Nollner has worked with the League of Women Voters. The two Democrats are new. They are political appointments. After the August election last year the Democrats were unhappy with them because they did not fight the outcome and ousted them. They chose Norma Lester and George Monger, who is not yet 22, I believe.”
Meyers explained that members are appointed by “our respective caucus and then submitted to the state election commission for approval. Our mission is to administer all public elections in Tennessee and always work in compliance with the law.”
“We have to be mistake free 100% of the time,” he said, acknowledging that they weren’t in the August 2010 election. “But, in that election fewer than 20 people might have been affected, but thousands were not turned away. We learned from it.”
Since then the Commission has moved to make sure the poll books are double checked. The employee who made the mistake was looked at, but not fired. “There was a strong temptation to fire someone, but it was the organization that failed,” Meyers said. They have also increased the training of staff, hired an outside consultant to help with job descriptions, policies and procedures. They are also cross training so that if someone gets ill, the job can still be done.
Meyers has also moved to improve the website, www.shelbyvote.com. “You can see if you’re registered online. Some of the information that was previously available only to the parties is now on the website and we have expanded our information on candidates. We want to put as much information as possible on the website.”
In addition, Meyers wants to make people aware of the new voter ID eligibility law that begins in 2012.
“It won’t affect the October election, but we want to tell people then about the changes. We’ll have some handouts and after the election I will work with the media to get the word out.” Next year you must have a valid photo ID either from your drivers license or the state will provide a free photo ID for you. “People over 60 will not have to have a picture on their drivers license,” he says. Also, a valid U.S. passport will suffice as well.
Another change in the law will allow party representatives to move within the county. “There should be at least one Republican at each voting location,” he said, noting that previously the distribution of voters meant that some Democrat districts had no one from the opposite party to monitor. “We will be able to move them county wide now which will mean more Republicans placed. “That will help reduce the likelihood of voter fraud,” Meyers said.
“We want everyone eligible to register and to vote,” the Chairman said. “Following the law is our Number 1 job.”