Update: Crossville Democrat's vote in Republican primary will be counted

1:43 PM, Jul 22, 2010   |    comments
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CROSSVILLE, Tenn. - A Crossville Democrat's vote in the Republican primary will be counted after all, Cumberland County Administrator of Elections Sharon York told 10News.

Tuesday, a three-judge political panel verbally voted to deny Mickey Eldridge the chance to cast her vote in the Republican primary.

But after that vote, one of the judges did not sign paperwork that would have officially denied Eldridge's vote.

It took all three judges agreeing to keep the vote from counting.

"I think the process worked." York said.

Eldridge's vote will be counted among the absentee ballots.

The controversy started when a poll watcher stopped Eldridge from casting her ballot and challenged her right to vote in Cumberland County Monday.

Eldridge is a known Democrat and she's happy to admit it. However, when she walked into vote, she asked for a Republican ballot to support several candidates she knew in the primary.

This procedure is called cross-over voting and given Tennessee's open party system it happens all the time across the state. However, in this case the Republican poll watcher challenged Eldrige's vote.

While it may sound far-fetched, the "voter challenge" falls within a little known Tennessee law.

"It was disgraceful and this is a sad day in our community,"  Eldridge said after her vote was denied.  "I want my vote to count, that's the main thing."

Tuesday, Eldridge appeared in front of the 3 judge panel in Crossville that would explore if she was Republican enough to vote in the G.O.P. primary.

They asked to see her voting history, asked if she intended to vote Democrat in future elections, and listened to Eldridge take an oath of allegiance to the Republican Party.

"I was told in no uncertain terms that I was being denied the right to vote for some Republican candidates on a state or local level because I've been known to be a Democrat, vote in the Democratic primary in the past and she was going to challenge my right to vote," explained Eldridge.

A poll-watcher who is a supporter of Rep. Eric Swafford filed the complaint against Eldridge.

"I don't really understand what the big controversy or big story is," Swafford told 10News.  "We, just like everybody else, think elections are sacred.  We want open, honest, and fair elections for everybody."

Swafford insisted the challenge wasn't about who Eldridge would have supported in the election, it's about Tennessee election law.

"We have a process of a challenging procedure we must go through," said Administrator of Elections York.

Election officials say they have a list of rules they have to following order for a challenge to occur. The first four rules cover things that may seem obvious such as a voter can face a challenge if they aren't registered at the polling place. Rule number five permits a challenge when the voter "is not a bona fide member of political party in whose primary he seeks to vote."

"'This is the first time we have dealt with a challenge," stated York. The rule also states, "it would be extremely rare to deny a citizen the right to vote in a primary he wished to vote in because Tennessee has no registration by party."

"Just about everybody I know and I've known all my life vote Democrat or Republican. They like having the privilege to choose who they want to vote for," said Eldridge. 

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