By Clare Bratten
NASHVILLE, TN — A Maury County woman says she’s complaining to state election officials about what she calls “rigging” of the August 2018 election for county commission.
“If I go through the local [officials], it’s not going to be resolved fairly,” Patricia Hawkins says. Maury County’s elections administrator refutes her allegations.
In 2016, Hawkins was elected to the county commissioner because of her write-in campaign during a special election to fill a seat vacated by a commissioner who moved from the district. On election night, write-in votes were not tabulated before Ross Jaynes was announced as the winner, but only according to early voting. After write-in votes were counted, Hawkins won by a good margin.
In the August 2018 election to retain her seat as a commissioner, Hawkins alleges irregularities potentially damaged her re-election. “After investigating and talking to local citizens, I am of the opinion that election officials committed electoral fraud, election manipulation, voter rigging and/or ballot rigging and manipulation of demographics during the … Aug. 2, 2018 general election in Maury County.”
Hawkins says her complaint is filed with state election officials in the Snodgrass Building in Nashville.
“On Oct. 8 … I filed four complaints,” Hawkins said. She complained about County Elections Administrator Todd Baxter, St. Catherine’s Precinct Election Inspector Richard Brickner, Colby Block, who ran against Hawkins, and County Commissioner Eric Previti who represents another district.
Hawkins says on election night, vote totals are to be printed and posted soon after the polls close. She says she was told by the precinct inspector they were not available at the promised time, 7:15 p.m., due to a “computer glitch.” Later, records show the last computer terminal used in voting was not “closed” until 7:30 p.m. and she says the final printout was signed by poll workers at about 8:30 p.m. Further, her complaint names other commissioners and candidates as working against her candidacy. She says Previti blocked her signs near the election polling place. Hawkins also questions whether one candidate was actually a legal resident in the county.
Baxter counters, “It wasn’t a computer glitch. It was basically a loss of power to our voting machines. I’m not aware of anything other than that. It took a while for technicians to get the results, but it didn’t affect the result. Even if the power went off, nothing was lost.”
Baxter also said having different times for closing voting machines is normal because it takes about four minutes for each machine to be closed. “It was during the last two or three machines is when they ran into the issue” of power loss. According to Baxter, it took technicians time to drive across the county to Hawkins’ district poll to restore power. That explains any delay in getting results.
“All voting equipment has redundancy,” Baxter said. “We’ve used this equipment for 10 years and never had any loss on those machines.”
August 17, Hawkins filed a request for a recount. Williamson County Circuit Court Judge Deanna Johnson was the judge for the complaint because judges in Hawkins’ judicial district recused themselves.
Johnson “did not give my lawyer enough time to respond to some of the motions that [Maury County Attorney] Daniel Murphy filed … Sept. 27,” Hawkins. The hearing was held Oct. 3. Hawkins, was out of town and learned of the hearing Oct. 2. “My lawyer did not have the appropriate time to properly respond,” Hawkins said. Johnson dismissed Hawkins’ complaint, denying Hawkins a recount.
Hawkins says she also complained to Tennessee Elections Coordinator Mark Goins. Attempts to reach Goins and Previti last week were unsuccessful.