TN monitors, volunteers watch polls on Election Day

, The Associated Press


MEMPHIS, Tenn. (AP) - It's not just the choice of candidates that is contentious this presidential election. Voting itself, and who gets to do it, has become such a hot issue that federal election monitors were in Nashville and Memphis on Tuesday watching the polls.

On one side are people concerned about voter fraud who want more protections to ensure that only qualified voters cast ballots. That concern led to the state's new voter photo identification law — currently the subject of a lawsuit — and may have been behind a poll worker training session in Nashville that taught workers how to challenge a voter's citizenship.

On the other side are those who see the photo ID law and similar measures as a pretext designed to keep the poor and those with limited resources from exercising their legitimate vote.

Tennessee Citizen Action is a liberal-leaning nonpartisan voting rights and good government group that had about 125 volunteer poll watchers out in Nashville on Tuesday.

Director Mary Mancini said those watchers were reporting numerous problems.

"What aren't they seeing?" she said. " ... There's one polling place with 5 voting machines and only one machine operator. They're running out of change of address forms and people are being sent away. They're running out of provisional ballots. ... People are not being offered provisional ballots; they're just being turned away."

One of those to be turned away was Rudolph Johnson, a 30-year-old African-American who voted for the first time in 2008 for Barack Obama. Johnson said in an interview at a South Nashville polling place that he had photo identification but had lost his voter identification card. After waiting in line for about an hour he was told by poll workers they couldn't find his name on the rolls.

He was sent away without being offered a provisional ballot, but one of the Tennessee Citizen Action volunteers stopped him and helped him vote provisionally.

Meanwhile, in some other polling places around Nashville there were no lines and things were running smoothly.

Karen and Tom Surratt said they had no problems voting and supported the state's voter photo ID law.

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