NASHVILLE, Tenn. (WKRN) – “Currently in chaos” is the way Davidson County Election Commissioner Tricia Herzfeld described early voting just two months out from a critical mayoral election.
It’s the latest response to the unprecedented action taken Wednesday by the Election Commission as it voted 3-2 along party lines to cut all early voting sites except one, if it does not get more funding from Metro Nashville budget currently being debated.
In last November’s election, about half of all votes cast in Nashville came in early voting.
Metro Finance Director Rich Reibeling minced no words in a statement given to News 2.
“Does the election commission have enough money to run the elections this summer? Yes, they do. But they’ve chosen to punish the voters of Davidson County in order to enhance their budget,” said Riebeling. ” They need to reverse their position and remember that their job is to make elections accessible to the voters. To threaten early voting sites is outrageous.”
At-Large Council Member and mayoral candidate Megan Barry also blasted the decision, saying she hopes to restore the funding for early voting sites.
“At a time when elected officials at the state level have been trying to make it harder rather than easier for people to vote, it is outrageous that we here in Nashville would limit opportunities to vote in Metro elections,” Barry said. “It offers working men and women a chance to get out to the polls when it is most convenient for them, and every year more Nashvillians have come to rely on this service. This will not stand if I have anything to do with it.”
The three Republican members of the commission have been upset that they received nearly $868,000 dollars less than requested in Mayor Karl Dean’s Metro budget. They indicated that cutting staff would not be an option.
The three all voted to eliminate the early voting sites, while the two Democrats on the election commission said no.
“The last thing we want to do is have the people wait in line and not be able to vote early,” said Election Commission Chairman Ron Buchanan. “But, at times, you just have to make tough decisions based upon the funding that you receive.”
Early voting begins Friday, July 17 at the Howard Office Building. More information can be found at Nashville.gov.