A candidate for the Cocke County School Board will not be able to vote for herself in the upcoming elections because of a error in district lines. Evan Johnson
(WBIR - Cocke County) Heather Webb is one of four people running for the Cocke County School Board's 4th District seat. Her opponents are Arlene Dunn, Darla Morgan, and Scott Thornton. There's also the option for voters to write-in a candidate.
With early voting underway for the August 7th election, Webb's biggest battle isn't against her opponents. She's fighting a nearly 25-year mapping mistake.
Webb said, "I was informed on June 19th that the district that I have lived in since my husband and I married in 1996, which is the 4th District, we were no longer in the 4th District. We are now in the sixth."
June 18th, one day before Webb was given the news, was the deadline for write-in candidates. That means Webb had missed the opportunity to petition to be a write-in candidate for the 6th District.
Webb said, "I was in tears the first day when Ms. Slagle at the election commission office first called me in. I felt like almost like I was being called to the principal's office in some sense."
Cocke County's Administrator of Elections Joyce Slagle said a redistricting error dating as far back as 1990 led to hundreds of Cocke County voters being moved to a different district, including Webb who had already qualified for the 4th District before elections officials caught the mapping error.
Slagle said, "It's just unfair to her and we can't change it unless a court tells us to."
Slagle explained mapping, which is done following each U.S. Census, used to be done by officials using a paper map to determine a voter's district. She showed 10News a computer program that's now used to determine a voter's district.
"It's a system where my precincts are on a map that lays out districts and precincts and I will type in a voter's address and it will take me to that area and it will show you exactly what district they're in and what precinct they belong in. That's how we found the error with the candidate's situation," Slagle explained.
Slagle said hundreds of Cocke County voters have been affected by the mapping error. Some were moved to a different voting precinct. Hundreds of others were moved to a different district, including Webb.
Webb said she was told she has two options to keep the school board seat if she wins. Her first option is to move to district four, which she said would be across the street from her current address. Her second option is to get a court order to keep her in the 4th District.
Webb is planning to address the County Legislative Body (CLB) on Monday, asking for them to decide not to recognize the updated district lines. If the commission gives Webb their support, Webb said she will file a lawsuit in Chancery Court on Tuesday in hopes of a favorable decision.