In 2008, with almost no dissent and with voting across party lines, the Tennessee legislature overwhelmingly approved the Voter Confidence Act, which mandates, among other things, the universal statewide use by 2010 of optical-scan voting machines capable of electronically recording citizens' ballots and providing a paper trail of those votes in event of challenge.
Between the passage of the act and now, however, came the legislative elections of 2008, which gave the Republican Party a majority of one in the state House of Representatives and allowed the GOP technical control over the chamber's internal organization. Together with the existing Republican dominance of the state Senate, the election mandated numerous other significant changes, including the reversal of the 3-2 ratio on county election commissions previously favoring Democrats as the official "majority" party.
That happened also to be the year that Democrats won control of the presidency and of Congress — meaning that the rough political balance, both nationally and statewide, made the forthcoming 2010 races especially crucial.
Newly named secretary of state in Nashville, Tre Hargett, and the newly appointed director of state elections, Mark Goins, both Republicans, contended that the technical requirements of the act made it impossible to distribute the machines by next year.
They are clearly prepared to stall the situation until the legislature reconvenes in 2010 and can review and perhaps cancel the Voter Confidence Act.
Predictably, Democrats are howling at what they see as sabotage and subterfuge, and the issue plainly needs to be settled. Accordingly, we welcome the suit filed against state officials this week by Common Cause in Davidson County's Chancery Court. The issue clearly needs to be resolved by the judiciary and not by politicians of whatever stripe.
Facilities for the Public
As John Branston observes in his Flyer blog "Get Memphis Moving," the number of free community sports facilities and the hours they are open are declining.
City and county division directors are under pressure to cut budgets, but they should be careful where they make the cuts. As parks and recreation director Cindy Buchanan notes, the city is probably overstocked with baseball fields and indoor tennis courts but has too few community centers and swimming pools. To its credit, the city charges nothing for use of its 13 outdoor pools and four indoor pools, but keeping them open is the problem.
It's been said before, but it needs to be said again. The much-too-big Liberty Bowl stadium is used fewer than 10 times a year and only by elite athletes and costs millions of dollars to operate and maintain. An outdoor basketball complex or playing field is open 365 days a year. A community center is the only opportunity some Memphians have to enjoy regular indoor exercise, even though the facilities fall far short of the private fitness clubs in the suburbs.
We applaud the members of the Memphis City Council who speak up for community centers and public sports facilities. The dollars supposedly saved by cutting back hours and staffing at recreational facilities will be spent somewhere else down the road on crime control and health care.