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Shelby County voting machines could be seized

By Richard Locker     The Commercial Appeal 
September 16, 2005

Nashville - State Republican Party Chairman Bob Davis today asked state Atty. Gen. Paul Summers to "seize all voting machines and voting records" in Shelby County's Senate District 29 race, which Democrat Ophelia Ford apparently won Thursday by 12 votes.

In a letter to the attorney general this morning, the GOP chief cited "circumstances involved in this election that cause concern about the outcome. These circumstances include the alleged voting of convicted felons, unregistered voters and an incident involving the questionable voter cartridges of the last precinct reporting."

 With all 60 precincts reporting, the unofficial tally in the special election:

Ford 4,332 or 50%
Roland 4,320 or 49%
Robert Hodges 89 or 1%  

Republican Terry Roland led Ford by 84 votes Thursday night while election watchers awaited the results of the last of 60 precincts. That box pushed Ford ahead by 12 votes.

Davis told Summers that while there are procedures in place for contesting the election, "we do believe this extra step should be taken to insure that the votes are counted in a fair and proper manner. Therefore as the top law enforcement agent of our state, I am asking you to seize all voting machines and voting records in District 29 until they have been inspected by the proper authorities and by officials of each party," Davis wrote.

The attorney general's office said that it lacked legal authority to seize the machines and records and said it was assured by the election commission and the state election coordinator's office that the machinery is "safe."

Meanwhile, the executive director of the Tennessee Republican Party, Chris Devaney, said the party will contest the election.

Ultimately, the state Senate could settle the dispute by deciding which candidate to seat. Republicans outnumber Democrats in the Senate 17-15 without Ford's presence.

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