LETTER: Studd Left Out Important Information

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After reading Matt Studd’s letter to the editor, I noticed that Mr. Studd failed to include in his letter the foundation of why the Election Commission unanimously decided to close Short Mountains voting precinct.

At the onset of the January 9th, 2012  Election Commission meeting, Mr. Studd repeatedly stated that the voters at Short Mountain were voting illegally and that this was discussed in detail at the November 2011 meeting.  Mr. Studd also stated that this was left out of the November meeting minutes; however, Sue Patrick informed Mr. Studd that the voters at Short Mountain were not voting illegally and the Election Commission had not discussed this at the November meeting but had talked about Pleasant Ridge.

Mr. Studd kept on insisting this had been left out of the minutes and he wanted the people present at the January meeting to know this before they started any new business.  Ms. Patrick as well as two other board members did not remember the conversation taking place.  This was quite disturbing to me that a board member would want to change the minutes.

As I listened to Mr. Studd, it became apparent that something was amiss and a person only backtracks to uncover mistakes or cover their mistakes.  The mistake made by the Cannon County Election Commission was obvious and Sue Patrick spoke out to that fact and stated that this needed more research and made the motion to put the vote back on the floor to restore voting at Short Mountain.

Matt Studd and Administrator Stan Dobson referred to T.C.A. codes during the meeting however, they neglect to read the two codes that were the most important T.C.A. § 2-3-101 and T.C.A. § 2-3-102. 

The big picture in my opinion is incompetence. In the November 2011 meeting Chairman Lindbergh Dennis placed a map on a table and explained to the other commissioners by moving polling places and eliminating workers this would cut expenses the other commissioners approved the idea with a unanimous vote; however, there clearly was no research or thought put forth in this endeavor. In my opinion, if the Election Commission had done their research properly, no money would have been wasted because the 2nd district at Short Mountain was and is within the ½ mile limit of the boundary according to T.C.A. § 2-3-101(a). 

I, as well as the others present at the meeting personally want to thank Sue Patrick, Jackie Gannon, and Louise Mayo for having the fortitude of accepting this mistake and taking the proper action to rectify the error.

Rebecca Reedy

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January 19, 2012 at 2:56pm
I was at the County Commissioners meeting this past Saturday and they revised the minutes two or three times. That didn't make them dishonest and it didn't mean they were "backtracking" to cover any mistakes, it just simply meant they were correcting what was either left out or typed wrong. I doubt very seriously that what Matt described was any different in the January meeting. If it was left out, then it should have been added.

I would also question the idea that three out of the five election commission did not know what was going on during the November meeting when they voted unanimously to move the precincts, but suddenly had a revelation in the January meeting.

If they did then your statement that "The big picture in my opinion is incompetence" is absolutely correct because in my opinion if they voted YES for something they didn't know about or believed to be incorrect then that makes them very incompetent.

I have said it before and I will say it again. I was someone who would have had to move voting precincts. It did not kill me that I couldn't vote in the exact same spot I had voted in for the last 22 years. I took into consideration that it was the right move for the entire county and the cost savings alone was merit enough to make the change.

Too many people take for granted the right and privilege we have to vote. It was blown out of proportion because of tradition and selfishness in my opinion. People all over the world walk for miles just to vote and we had a select few that couldn’t drive 5 more minutes to a new spot. That is ridiculous.

I, as well as many other want to thank Matt and Lindberg for having the fortitude of mind to stand by the correct decision they made in November despite the inability of so many to see it and the other three commissioners who caved in to peer pressure.

Make a decision, stand by it and move on.
January 19, 2012 at 3:03pm
A tape recorder would eliminate any doubt when it comes to what was said or not said at a meeting.
January 19, 2012 at 11:12pm
@KevinHalpern Sue usually does record these meetings with a cassette recorder.

@Rebecca Reedy
Your letter is, in many respects, inaccurate and/or distorted. I leave it to your conscience and for the readers to judge for themselves, if the inaccuracies and distortions are deliberate or just confusion on your part. For the sake of clarity and accuracy, I offer the following, so that those who will read, reason and conclude for themselves the distinctions between truth, fact, distortion and fiction.

You state- “After reading Matt Studd’s letter to the editor, I noticed that Mr. Studd failed to include in his letter the foundation of why the Election Commission unanimously decided to close Short Mountains voting precinct.”

Fact- You seemed to have missed that many of the foundational reasons are clearly addressed in most segments and paragraphs of my letter.

“When the full Cannon County Election Commission met on November 7th, the Election Office was still trying to operate on a budget that had been significantly reduced.”

“At the November Election Commission Meeting, the cost cutting aspects of reducing our County Wide Polling places was discussed in a robust manner. We discussed that “one” Polling place at West Side serviced about 1824 voters. The “one” Polling place at Woodland serviced about 1569 voters. The Pleasant Ridge Polling place located in Woodbury (out of their voting District) only serviced about 425 total voters. After early voting, only about 137 voters actually voted at the Polls in the last election. There were 5 Poll Workers (4 @ $120.00 per day and 1 @ $140.00 per day) working 12 hours.

While thoroughly discussing Short Mountain and Pleasant Ridge poll places, and the cost per voter aspect of multiple voting locations in the same district. It was obvious that we could reduce the number of Polling Locations and save our Citizens’ money. In fact, Commissioner Patrick stated after discussing the multiple locations that serviced smaller voter numbers …”well that don’t seem right.”

This low voter volume meant considerable dead time with no voter activity, to which Commissioner Patrick stated “you’re right, they don’t do much”. After discussing that these changes the Full Commission was making would not be agreeable to some citizens, Commissioner Gannon stated “somebody’s going to gripe about what ever you do, no matter what you do”. Both individuals were still in full agreement with reducing the locations.”

You state- “Mr. Studd kept on insisting this had been left out of the minutes and he wanted the people present at the January meeting to know this before they started any new business.” (Note-any new business discussions, follow approving the minutes.)

Fact-The reading of previous meeting minutes usually lead every business meeting. The minutes become official, once they have been read and discussed, noting any errors, omissions or corrections, and then put to a vote to accept. At this point they are Official Minutes. After Sue Patrick read the minutes, I addressed several points of clarification so that the minutes could more accurately reflect and account for what was actually said and done on Nov. 7th. Some of these clarifications are as follows;

Clarification 1-The aspect of polling locations being out of precinct boundaries was in fact discussed at our Nov. 7th meeting, despite the absence in the minutes. After some back and forth discussion and resistance, Sue Patrick finally admitted that we “did” discuss the “aspect” that Pleasant Ridge poll location was “not” in it’s lawful precinct.

Clarification 2-The minutes made a number of references to Deputy Administrator Dorinda’s “salary”. Each of our Election Commissioners knows full well that Dorinda is in “fact” an hourly employee and is “not” on a salary. This very topic has been clarified at previous Election Commission meetings. To avoid further confusion, it was clarified again… at this meeting and in these minutes.

Clarification 3-The minutes “did not” reflect our discussion regarding the December meeting that would not be scheduled or that the next meeting would be on Jan. 9th, at which time the 2012 Election cycle was going to get very busy. This omission was also corrected at this Jan. 9th. Meeting.

Note: Each clarification I proposed to amend the Minutes, was in fact voted and approved by all Commissioners. Remember?

You state “there clearly was no research or thought put forth in this endeavor.” Your own letter disputes your false claim.

Fact-You cite “In the November 2011 meeting Chairman Lindbergh Dennis placed a map on a table and explained to the other commissioners by moving polling places and eliminating workers this would cut expenses the other commissioners approved the idea with a unanimous vote” Along with this map, were factual numbers of voters in each precinct, number of actual voters at these polls, the numbers of poll workers. Several questions were asked by the Commissioners. Data and facts “were” discussed.

Summary: As I stated previously “The initial action taken by the Election Commission was lawful, helpful and cost effective — when ALL the County Citizens’ factors were considered. This difficult, but obvious decision was not reached in order to place hardships on anyone. Our voters in West Side and Woodland have many miles, many large hills and dangerous roads, yet only one polling place each.”

*Are voters at Short Mt. or Pleasant Ridge entitled to more polling locations and convenience than West Side or Woodland precinct voters who have but one?

*The long lines of voters that West Side and Woodland often experience, would have been greatly reduced with the additional voting machines being moved from much slower polls.

*Is there any financial wisdom for County Tax payers footing the bill keeping multiple polling locations open for 12 hours with 5 poll workers for approx. 137 walk in voters?

Matt Studd
Election Commissioner (representing ALL Cannon County Citizens and Voters)
January 20, 2012 at 8:17am
So what was the reason to change the inital vote? Are you saying 3 members were decieved by the other two with intentional misleading information? Then this misleading info was discovered and the decision was reversed.

I do believe it has been well explained that the decision was made to save money. It has not been explained why the inital vote was reversed.

I dont think it is fair to call this board incompetent. These are all good people serving there community with little praise and lots of blame.

Errors can and will be made but tax payers should know how and why their money is spent.
January 20, 2012 at 9:53am
Close all voting sites, everyone vote at election office. Saving money should be the goal for everyone.
January 23, 2012 at 5:15pm
@news..... This is the best post I've saw so far about this issue. If the concern here is cost savings then why don't we do it big and close all the voting locations county wide and have one central location in woodbury. I think this would as Commissioner Studd said help to "tighten all belts". After all, I don't think cannon county is so huge that there's a spot in the county you can't drive to woodbury in 30 mins or so? And I think it would be worth soliciting for volunteers to work the polls on election day rather than just pay everyone straight out. I also have to question why we have an election administrator with such a steep salary for cannon county especially with the talk of low voter turn outs? In the state of economy we have, tightening belts and saving money definitely needs to be explored in all areas of an organization and I think this is something our election commission should look more closely at.
January 24, 2012 at 6:25am
Most of the salaries of the officials in Cannon County are set by the State of Tennessee. It is primarily based on the population of the county.

Trust me when I say that I guarantee you this county has never had a desire to pay anyone a high salary and if it wasn't set by the state then we would be in the top 10% of lowest salaries paid to every official here.

In other words if they didn't have to pay it, they wouldn't pay it. So if you are concerned about how much the Election Commissioner gets paid CCYT then I would suggest you call the State of Tennessee and complain.

The idea of one precinct is not feasible for many different reasons. Primarily because if you had everyone show up at one precinct to vote on the day of the election then you would have such a cluster of people it would be half the night trying to get everyone voted.

Secondly, Cannon County doesn't have a building big enough to house that many voters all at once. Where you going to put the line if it is raining or snowing? Are you going to ask the elderly to stand outside so we can have one precinct?

Thirdly, and most importantly in my opinion, this is not about making one precinct it is about closing two that basically voted 150 people at a cost that was not justifiable and people voting out of the district they were zoned for.

It was a simple fix and one that was correct. However it turned into a fiasco because of people being selfish and commissioners who could not make a decision and stand by it.

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