Crimea election and its ties to East TN

The election turmoil in Ukraine may seem far removed from East Tennessee, but it has the attention of one man who devoted his life to overseeing elections both here and overseas.

In Crimea, over the weekend the election committee said 97 percent of the voters chose to leave Ukraine, siding with Russia.

Experts say that wasn't a surprise given 60 percent of Crimea is made of up of people with Russian heritage.

RELATED: Moscow, West confrontation escalates on Crimea

But one man in East Tennessee pointed out specific concerns in that election that raise alarm.

Greg Mackay is a former administrator of elections in Knox County. He has dedicated 16 years of his life to elections, and he's taken that experience overseas.

In 2010, he was in Ukraine to observe elections for the presidential election.

When Mackay thinks back about his time in Ukraine, there are things that stick out to him.

"Ukraine is really just a beautiful country. Kiev is just awesome, the city itself. There were buildings there built in the 1200s. If you ever get a chance to go, I would go. I'm sure it's a mess right now, but they will get it fixed," said Mackay.

He took in the sights, while doing the job he was designated to do by the Organization for Security and Cooperation in Europe.

"One of their branches monitors elections. And we went over with a group of 600 election monitors from all over the country to watch the election. To make sure the protocol was being followed and just to make sure everything was legitimate," said Mackay.

When comparing to the election in Crimea, Mackay calls the election he monitored an honest one. Although he wasn't a part of the Crimea vote, he saw pictures on Twitter that made him question the final result.

"We always post a sample ballot here, and they did there too so you know before you walk into the polling place what's on the ballot. And the sample ballots they took the pictures of had Russia already marked on them. I don't think that's protocol. You're not supposed to do that," said Mackay.

Given the number of Russians in the country, and the country's history, Mackay expected voters to chose a split and side with Russia.

"It's part of history. It's part of their tradition to be Russia. Crimea used to be part of Russia until 1954. And so did the Ukraine as of 20 years ago, so to say their are conflicted is a fair statement," said Mackay.

While monitoring the 2010 election, Mackay saw one attempt to sway the results.

"We did get a report of someone using disappearing ink on the ballots. The worker in the village knew who was for his party and who was against it. And when the against people would come in, he would give them the pen with the disappearing ink in it. But by the end of the day they had figured out what happened and had caught the guy and were able to look at the impressions on the ballots."

He says he would go back again, but is holding off because at this point in time, he doesn't think he would be safe.

Mackay said there are elections coming up in the nation of Georgia, a possible next stop for him.

As for now, he holds his position as director of public assembly for the City of Knoxville.

A step away from elections, but not so far that he won't keep it in his life.


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