Election Commission holds organizational meeting

By Kathy Helms-Hughes

STAR STAFF
khelms@starhq.com

   Newly named members of the Carter County Election Commission held their first organizational meeting Monday morning since being named to the commission earlier this month.
   Democrat Leonard Lewis, first vice chairman of the Carter County Democrats, was named Election Commission chairman, replacing Jerry Oliver, who had served on the board 18 years.
   Bud Whitehead, a Republican, will replace Sam Q. Ritchie as secretary. Ritchie, along with fellow Republican Phil Isaacs, had asked not to be reappointed to the election commission.
   The state election commission replaced all five former members of the county election commission earlier this month, including Michael Nave, a 14 year-member, and Raymond Bautista, who served 10 years. New members in addition to Lewis and Whitehead are Dean Perry, Millard Garland, and Sid Davidson, new chairman of the Carter County Democratic Party replacing John Fetzer.
   Tracy Harris, administrator of Elections, said Monday that the Election Commission is trying to amend its budget to set aside $30,000 each year for three years in order to purchase new voting machines for the blind.
   Harris said that according to a federal mandate the new machines must be in place by 2006 and there must be one per precinct.
   The voting machines total $4,150 each, or $700 for the headphone kit and $3,400 for the machine, Harris said.
   "We have 21 precincts -- 22 counting early voting. We're going to try to have one by the presidential preference primary in March," she said.
   Out of 95 counties, on April 11 the state totally replaced election commission members in three counties. Though Carter County is a Republican stronghold, the local election commission is now controlled by Democrats. According to state Sen. Rusty Crowe that is because the Democrats are in charge of the state Senate and the House.
   "Of the five election commissioners in each county, three -- the majority -- will be Democrat," Crowe said. "If you have a Democratic senator in your county, like I used to be, then he would recommend the three Democrats. If you have a Republican senator, then he would recommend the Republicans."
   Crowe said he and state Rep. Jerome Cochran recommended Perry and Whitehead for the two Republican seats. "The three Democratic picks were put on there by Sid Davidson, who is the new chairman of the Democratic Party," he said.