County Election Commissions Are Too Politicized

In yet another example of Republican shenanigans, Knoxville GOP chair Ray Jenkins called for the ouster of Greg MacKay, the Knox County Election Commissioner.

"I don't hold any personal animus (dislike) toward him at all," Jenkins said. "It's just he's in the wrong party." To rally support among Knox County's Republicans, Jenkins sent a highly charged letter that has ruffled some feathers.
In it, he urged the three G.O.P. election commissioners to open the hiring process, remove Greg Mackay, and start taking resumes from Republicans.

He also took aim at Knoxville-area legislators who appointed the commissioners, calling the process a "secret ballot".

Knoxville-area State Senator Tim Burchett says that's not the case. He says the meeting where commissioners were appointed was open to the public and press.

Still, Jenkins continues his push.

"Elections have consequences. It's time the Republican majority in Nashville and Knox County begin to act like it," Jenkins wrote in the letter. "Also, urge them to ensure that whomever they appoint as Election Commissioners, a Republican must be appointed as the Knox County Administrator of Elections."

Now, it's fine to be partisan during campaigns. But once you enter the voting booth, it is essential that we have people who respect the rule of law - not pursuing partisan interests. We do not need to politicize the selection of election commissioners, and those commissioners should be chosen on the basis of their love for fairness and justice, not for Democrats or Republicans.

This is not a partisan issue. This is an American issue. Fair elections are essential to the effectiveness of our democracy. We need to know that every legally-cast vote is counted - and that shouldn't be about partisanship.

In my opinion, the real solution to this is to have a truly bipartisan election commission, with equal numbers of Republican and Democratic commissioners. Those selected should be focused on properly enforcing the law and should do their best not to disenfranchise voters. The Voting Rights Act of 1964 was put in place to ensure that no one is denied their constitutional rights to vote on the basis of discrimination, intimidation, or political pressure. That's not a Democratic or Republican issue - that's an issue of protecting our democracy and the foundations of our Republic.

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Comment by Ben Vos on May 21, 2009 at 9:18am
Joelle - are you kidding? Ray Jenkins isn't trying to protect democracy - he's trying to maintain GOP privilege and power against democratic reforms. Knoxville and East Tennessee are poised for huge changes - thanks for standing up and making your voice heard.
Comment by Joelle Brink on May 21, 2009 at 9:08am
Sounds like Jenkins is trying to circle the wagons in anticipation of a Democratic victory. Smart guy! But what he's doing is illegal under the Voting Rights Act a travesty of the very democracy he pretends to "protect." We discussed this on Monday at the Knoxville District V Democrats meeting.
Thanks for reminding me to contact the Election Commission ASAP.
Comment by Mary L. Wilson on May 21, 2009 at 5:44am
I urge all voters in Knox County to contact the Election Commissioners here and re-select Greg McKay as our Election Commissioner. In the 2008 National and local elections he proved to be an excellent, non-partisan administrator of the process here. He kept his word to address any questions about our voting system, and answered any challenges of the voting machines and other issues as an unbiased professional. In fact, I assumed him to be a Republican!
Comment by Lenny Sharlet on May 20, 2009 at 1:48pm
I heartily agree Ben.
Comment by Ben Vos on May 20, 2009 at 1:44pm
update - more info on the Knox Co. Election Commission here.

Mission Statement
The Knox County Election Commissions' purpose as designated
by Tennessee Code Annotated (2-1-102) is to:
- secure the freedom and purity of the ballot
- require voters to vote in the precincts they reside except as otherwise expressly permitted
- provide a comprehensive and uniform election procedure and encourage maximum participation by all citizens in the electoral process

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