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Officials blame early voting decline in Brentwood on location

The percentage of registered 24voters in 2012 casting their ballots early in Brentwood dropped 35 percent compared to those who voted in the 2008 presidential election.

According to the Williamson County Election Commission, in 2012, 9 percent or 12, 261 of the county's 134,564 registered voters cast their ballots in the Brentwood polling place early, compared to 14 percent or 16,501 of the county's 121,098 registered voters who cast their ballots in Brentwood early in 2008. Early voting was down 3.6 percent countywide in 2012.

While variables such as weather could cause such a swing, county election officials consider a hotly disputed change in the early voting location a key factor.

“The Brentwood Library early voting was 35 percent higher in 2008 than the Brentwood early voting in 2012,” Bob Brown, chairman of the WCEC, told the Williamson Herald. “It seem obvious that the library is the best place to conduct early voting in Brentwood and the voters confirmed that in this election.”

In 2008, early voting in Brentwood took place at the Brentwood Public Library, located less than one mile from the intersection of I-65 and Concord Road in an area that's heavily residential. This election cycle, officials reluctantly held early voting at Tennessee Baptist Convention's headquarters in Brentwood's business district after Brentwood officials denied the election commission's request to hold early voting this election at the library. The Williamson County Election Commission sued the city of Brentwood and lost earlier in 2012.

“Not only was the judge’s decision incorrect based on the reading of the state law, but it is a bad public policy as well,” Brown said. “Do we really want the cities across the state deciding where to place polling locations? As you can see from the Brentwood example, where an early voting location is placed can have a huge impact on a close election. Letting the local political powerbrokers decide this will lead to more voter polarization and voter suppression. The decision of where to put polling locations needs to be made by the bi-partisan county election commission who know the best locations to encourage the highest turnout of voters.”

Mike Walker, Brentwood city manager, said the Election Commission refused to exercise options for alternate locations near the library.

“They had several viable locations identified to them near the library that were available but they chose not to use those sites,” Walker said. “Hopefully they will put their creative thinking hats on and find a new site that does not totally disrupt normal operations and use of the facility like early voting for the presidential election would have done for two weeks at the library.”

According to the Election Commission's attorney, Jeff Moseley of the firm Buerger, Carson & Moseley, the commission has begun the process to appeal the judge's ruling.


Posted on: 11/9/2012


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