The numbers are in for Tennessee midterms, but data issues in Davidson County might jeopardize the results of certain elections. As you may recall, information came out on November 2nd—the day before the final day of early voting—that a data mix-up caused a number of ballots to be cast for incorrect districts.
Though the mishap, caught by a local reporter, was addressed immediately, it turned out to be a signal of a much larger problem: on Friday, the Davidson County Election Commission (DCEC), in conjunction with the Metro Government, released a list of 438 people affected by the mishap during early voting and directed them to cast a second, provisional ballot at the DCEC headquarters on Election Day.
OVER 3.5K DAVIDSON COUNTY VOTERS IMPACTED
According to the DCEC Administrator Jeff Roberts, incorrect data could have impacted 3,687 voters. When asked whether this same issue was present during the previous May and August elections in the county, Roberts stated that the data was “static” and confirmed that all three elections were affected.
With a margin of error as large as 3,687 potentially miscast ballots, the implications are disastrous: many primaries were won by a much smaller margin, and this will cast doubt over the results of ten or more races. As we wait for more information, it remains unclear exactly which elections were affected. It’s also worth noting that county-wide and state-wide elections, along with amendment affirmations, were not impacted by this error.
Though county political figures have blamed both GOP gerrymandering and voter disenfranchisement as causes for the blunder, Roberts says Nashville’s population growth was at the heart of the issue: “If you want to have a root cause, it’s the population growth in Davidson County that made Davidson County have to break up,” he said during an interview with the Tennessee Holler. “We’ve got 178 precincts now, before redistricting we had 160… that means lines are redrawn; the state senate lines were redrawn, the state house lines were redrawn, council district lines were redrawn, school board lines were redrawn. It’s pretty much a re-do of Davidson County just because of the population growth here.”
DID THIS NEWS AFFECT VOTER TURNOUT?
Though official data is not yet available for Tuesday’s election, it’s still possible to get a ballpark figure of the turnout using vote totals. Unofficial results show 177,430 Davidson County residents voted in the gubernatorial race. Using that total puts the voter turnout in Davidson at about 36 percent. In 2014, an election year with similar variables (e.g. being a midterm election, having an incumbent governor on the ballot, and not having US senators up for reelection), the turnout was 38 percent. Thankfully, it looks as though the county’s mix-up did not have a significant impact on voter turnout this week.
This article has been updated to reflect Jeff Roberts' confirmation that ballot issues did affect the May and August primary elections.