UPDATE: In response to a follow up request on 10/8, Knox Co. Administrator of Elections Cliff Rodgers replied:

Last week, I had a long, pleasant telephone conversation with Sarah Caldwell about the issues mentioned in her mother’s blog post. Any and all issues between Sarah and our office have been resolved.

Original post continues...

Cathy McCaughan:

She called Knoxville’s Election Commission office to explain her dilemma and learn the options that exist for an out-of-state TN college student. Instead of advice or suggestions, she was told that TN will be red no matter what and her vote wouldn't matter.

UPDATE: Knox Co. Administrator of Elections reaches out to Cathy McCaughan via email:

Dear Cathy,

This morning I saw your blog post on Randy Neal's blog. I have made the staff and all part-time workers aware of your daughter’s complaint and would like to speak with your daughter about her telephone conversation with this office and to gather more information.

If possible, please have her contact me at 865-215-2483. Or, if she prefers, I’d be glad to call her instead. If so, please send me her contact information. Thanks in advance.

Sincerely yours,
Cliff Rodgers

R. Neal's picture

See update.

See update.

redmondkr's picture

I expect there will be

I expect there will be another of those apologies that reflect a lot of angst about the world discovering this event but precious little remorse for having actually done the deed.

rikki's picture


That is wildly inappropriate. An election official should not be discussing partisanship nor predicting outcomes under such circumstances. How would the official know the political leanings of a voter on the phone? Did he or she ask Cathy's daughter who she intended to vote for or which party she leans toward? If so, that's probably even more inappropriate than the unhelpful advice.

And while a local vote in the Presidential election might make no difference, there are other contests on the ballot, including Charter amendments that have no partisan character, so the office worker is disrespecting much of the ballot with that dismissive remark.

Treehouse's picture

Maybe Cliff wants to fire that worker

However, it's good news they read knoxviews!

Rachel's picture

Totally unacceptable. Cathy,

Totally unacceptable. Cathy, please keep us posted on what happens.

fischbobber's picture

The irony here of course

The irony is that her vote is extremely important at the state and local level, where one vote by a motivated few can make the difference in an election.

Vote Anthony Hancock and help turn our red state blue!

George's picture

6 of one ...

I'm not sure how much faith we can put into these third-hand allegations. It seems really far-fetched that a government employee could be so rude and say things that are probably against the law, or at least against standard operating procedure. Are we really taking a mom's account of what her college-age daughter said happened as the solemn truth, without giving so much as a listen to the other side of the story? Are college-age kids known for their unwaivering truthfulness and good decision-making? Do I actually see the words "butt" and "chugging" being used together in conjunction with kids of this same age?

Maybe this story should give us some confidence in our electoral processes because it highlights how we protect the integrity of the ballot and don't allow ballot by mail to follow registration by mail, since documents can be forged and sent by mail (in large quantity) with much more ease than forgery in person.

I don't know how much stock we can put into a college kid's mom's sensational story, but I can see that the election commission is trying to maintain the integrity of our elections.

CathyMcCaughan's picture

George - You seem really

George -

You seem really nice. I'd like to add you to our Christmas card list.

George's picture

Thank you for the offer.

Thank you for the offer. Although, I might be careful about offering Christmas cards. Some folks might consider that to be pushing your religion on others.

George's picture

Did I hear you correctly?

I care a great deal for others. I was just sharing with Cathy that when some folks care enough about others to include others in their own deeply personal faith expressions, like prayer or Christmas wishes, there are some who feel as though they are victims of your free expression.

Ridger's picture

Can't help but notice that

Can't help but notice that you have nothing to say about Cliff Rodgers offer to speak with you. What you have done is a cheap shot.

djuggler's picture

Ridger, yes we did say

Ridger, yes we did say something on that:

Has your daughter or Cathy spoken with Cliff Rodgers? If so, what happened?

Sarah was given someone's information (I presume Cliff Rodgers) and someone at the election commission (I presume Cliff Rodgers) was giving Sarah's information. Have they communicated with each other at this point? I haven't heard yet.

Beyond that, I don't know if anything has occurred because at this point it is between Cliff Rodgers and Sarah. Allow me to remind you that Sarah is a student and her job is to get her education, not rebuild out voting system. She is also doing a workstudy so her time is limited. Frankly, imho, we've made enough effort at this point. Having spent hours on the phone trying to find a solution to no avail. We even pursued registering her in New York. Sarah has made arrangements with her professors to get time off from classes to travel to Knoxville to vote. Cliff Rodgers is aware of the issue and has her contact information.

There is no cheap shot here. An awareness about an issue was made. Everything was done correctly. Hopefully this will initiate some discussion at the election commission to encourage positive change.

Remember Cathy's picture

Just like the Stem school

"There is no cheap shot here."

You all are agitators. I remember this same stuff with the stem school. It is a cheap shop from Cathy. But what else is new? Neither of you have the character of Cliff Rodgers.

djuggler's picture

This is a symptom of a greater problem.

George, the student is question is on the Dean's list. The quote is accurate. The number of hours and options explored to rectify this is ridiculous. And more importantly, this specific situation is a symptom of a far greater reaching problem which is that our voter id laws have created a situation to discourage voting. My daughter will vote in November because we will bus or fly her to Knoxville. How many out of state college students will opt not to vote because the process of registering and voting has been made too hard?

Calypso's picture


"My daughter will vote in November because we will bus or fly her to Knoxville."

Then the problem is solved. Right?

Has your daughter or Cathy spoken with Cliff Rodgers? If so, what happened? This is a lot of anger and over reaction for a 40 year old law that doesn't seem unreasonable.

Oh, what the election commission person allegedly said, that was uncalled for and they should get a letter in their file or just be fired. No argument there. But the rest of this is silly. Cliff offered to speak with your family. If you ignored that then shame on all of you.

djuggler's picture

Then the problem is solved.

Then the problem is solved. Right?

The symptom is solved. Sarah will get to vote. The problem is greater in that out of state college students, whose permanent address is with their parents due to their dependent status on their parents, may find themselves unable to vote because of their inability to get home for registration or voting. It seems to me the solution is to create a means for those college students to register from afar through a cooperative effort between election commissions. When a student goes to register, for example Sarah registering in NYC, instead of being turned away that student should be able to present ID and register with that state's election commission acting as a proxy to the home state (and following the home state's rules). That should not be insurmountable particularly if we truly believe that "every vote counts"...which apparently our election commission does not believe ergo this discussion.

Has your daughter or Cathy spoken with Cliff Rodgers? If so, what happened?

Sarah was given someone's information (I presume Cliff Rodgers) and someone at the election commission (I presume Cliff Rodgers) was giving Sarah's information. Have they communicated with each other at this point? I haven't heard yet.

If you ignored that then shame on all of you.

Nope. I expressly followed up with Cathy to make sure that we did not ignore his offer. I agree that it would be wrong for us to muddy waters then not follow through.

Calypso's picture

A day later, still no response

"Nope. I expressly followed up with Cathy to make sure that we did not ignore his offer. I agree that it would be wrong for us to muddy waters then not follow through."

Hey Cathy, what happened? Did you or your daughter call Cliff Rodgers yet? How about an update?

bizgrrl's picture

It's only been two days. Give

It's only been two days. Give it a break. Maybe one or more of the parties have been busy. Maybe they are still in discussions. If they find the resulting information is relevant, I'm sure an update will be forthcoming. Although, I'm not sure those involved feel the need to respond to people who are being so pugnacious.

rikki's picture

George loves bureaucrats

If you were going to argue for caution while we wait for the full story to emerge, you blew it. Did you seriously attempt to slander this young woman by association with butt chuggers? That is hateful.

The law requiring that either registration or request for an absentee ballot be made in person is reasonable, but it's no excuse for telling someone their vote does not matter. That is unprofessional and diminishes the integrity of elections.

Really, all you've done is declare that with only one side of the story told, you are going to dismiss a woman and her mother as hysterical and dishonest, because who could possibly believe that a government employee was rude?

fischbobber's picture

Well gee whiz George......

There's really not a polite way to comment on your observations. Even Miss Manners would tell you that it's rude to call out a lying, uninformed, lout in public. So I suppose I will pass on commenting on your post.

R. Neal's picture

It seems really far-fetched

It seems really far-fetched that a government employee could be so rude

Had a poll worker tell us something similar when we asked for a D ballot during a primary a couple of years ago. So it's not far-fetched to me. And technically, it would appear to be illegal (EC and employees are supposed to be fair and impartial or some such wording in state law).

Also, I trust Cathy McCaughan. I don't know her daughter, but if she's anything like her Mom she's a stand up person, too. Perhaps there was some confusion, miscommunication, or possibly just "kidding around," but it's not an appropriate message to communicate and I can't imagine why anyone would make something like that up.

So we will wait to see what, if anything, comes out of her conversation with Cliff Rodgers. At least he is trying to follow up on it.

bizgrrl's picture

Had a poll worker tell us

Had a poll worker tell us something similar when we asked for a D ballot during a primary a couple of years ago.

They were not kidding around when they told us this.

djuggler's picture

Btw, you dined with Sarah in

R. Neal's picture

Wow, forgot all about that.

Wow, forgot all about that. Seems like ages ago.

djuggler's picture

Good times!

Good times!

Treehouse's picture

Woo boy

Cathy, I'll look forward to your response!
"Maybe this story should give us some confidence in our electoral processes..." Parents, don't trust your children, trust the government. I'm sure George would want us to trust the government more than our children. Third hand sensationalism? Ha!

marytheprez's picture

Thanks, Fish! No only for

Thanks, Fish! No only for pinning the rulers of our KCEC to the wall over their totAl waste of their Budget ($1.3 million) because they are NOT protecting anyone's Right to Vote...but their total insensitivity to the needs of those who have tried to meet all the unreasonable demands of the TN Voter/Photo ID law...and yes, that employee does need to be repremanded, but he or she must have had been instructed to respond to that young lady in that negative/partisan manner.

And also thanks for your endorsement of our super-qualified candidate, Anthony Hancock, a man of character, integrity, and concern for our citizens who WILL serve his District with a focus of SERVICE to all...finding jobs, ways to support our PUBLIC Schools and intent on helping those here improve their lives and have safe and secure neighborhoods for their families.

R. Neal's picture

Also, as for the options

Also, as for the options available to Cathy's daughter, best I can tell there are only two, and both require her to be in Knox County in person.

The first option is that she can register by mail (and she would have to do it by Monday which is the deadline, not sure if you can do it by fax or not), but she would have to vote the first time in person.

The second option is to come to town by Monday and register in person, and then she can request an absentee ballot and vote by mail.

At least that's how I understand state law, and the EC doesn't really have any way around it.

djuggler's picture

Also, as for the options

Also, as for the options available to Cathy's daughter, best I can tell there are only two, and both require her to be in Knox County in person.

This is the same conclusion that we drew. She is register via mail. She'll be busing or flying down to vote. On the positive side, we will have a nice visit from our daughter in November. On the negative side, how many students will simply opt not to vote because the process is cost prohibitive, doesn't fit into the schedule, or is otherwise too difficult?

R. Neal's picture

That's great news, Doug.how

That's great news, Doug. She'll have a great story to tell about voting in her first election.

how many students will simply opt not to vote because the process is cost prohibitive, doesn't fit into the schedule, or is otherwise too difficult?


rikki's picture

She has a lifetime of voting

She has a lifetime of voting ahead of her. Hopefully you're teaching her some personal lessons to go along with what she is learning about bureaucrats.

A good lesson is that voting requires preparation and planning. You need to know what is on the ballot and how you are going to vote before you enter the booth. Also, waiting until deadlines loom can sometimes leave you trapped in a corner.

I'd probably be tempted to tell her you blew it for November 2012, but I bet you can motivate five friends in Knoxville to get themselves registered and to the polls. Then she can call back the EC and tell them her vote not only counts, but it counts 5 times.

djuggler's picture

She threw us a curve when she

She threw us a curve when she opted not to come home for the summer in lieu of working the summer in NYC.

reform4's picture

Sounds like a poll tax to me.

Airfare ain't cheap.

CathyMcCaughan's picture

There is a rumor that you can

There is a rumor that you can register in your college's ROTC office with verifiable ID and still be able to vote absentee. We couldn't get anyone to confirm this and her school doesn't have an ROTC program.

Calypso's picture

update please

Have you or your daughter spoken with Cliff yet? An update would be appreciated.

George's picture

... Half-dozen of the other

I find it odd to see such distrust of the government from a blog that promotes itself as progressive. First, we're told that the government knows what's best for our health care and our personal finances, but now we're told that government can't hold its own elections.

Maybe my tongue-in-cheek comment highlighted a few things that might be useful for us to remember.

1) Individuals are individuals and are all still just as fallible as anyone else, whether they work for the government or not.

2) There is a tendency to believe whoever tells a story that best fits one's own views, regardless of what the other party has to say. Progressives say they value "fairness," but they don't want to hear both sides of this story before making up their minds.

3) I remember the days when the word of an adult trumped the word of a child. Apparently, now the accusation of a child condemns the accused on the spot. Innocent until proven guilty does not exist on progressive blogs.

This also highlights the need to think ahead when traveling. A lack of planning on the part of the traveler does not constitute an emergency or special circumstances on the part of the election commission.

George's picture

Threats and name-calling.

Threats and name-calling. Doesn't sound very compassoinate to me.

Rachel's picture

George,It's incomprehensible


It's incomprehensible to me how you can compare a student who's trying her hardest to be a good citizen to the one engaging in the ridiculous behavior at the Pike house.

If you had a point to make, it was totally lost in your insults.

Pam Strickland's picture

George, She is not a child.


She is not a child. She is of age -- being over the age of 18 years old makes her legal to sign contracts and do all kinds of things, including to cast her vote in local, state, and federal elections. I well remember my first vote in the 1976 election when I was a college sophomore -- the same age as this young woman. I hadn't the good sense to get myself off to a fancy out-of-state school so I didn't face the voter registration problem that she faces. I voted in Roane County where I was born and raised and was attended a community college. And I am offended, beyond words, as her parents should be, that you have compared her to the alcohol-sodden fraternity hooligans who have been making the front page here in Knoxville. This young woman is on the dean's list of a prestigious school. She's working, while attending school. She wants to vote, and based on who her parents are, my guess is she is informed. My experience with you George is that you are not informed. Bless be quiet and go away.


George's picture

Good to hear from you, Pam!

I hadn't seen your posts on this subject yet, Pam, so I was a bit worried. But, I'm glad you've joined the party.

This entire accusation seemed so off-the-wall, so outrageous that I thought a level-headed adult might look at it and say, "let's reserve judgment until we've heard both sides." But, that didn't happen here. If the accusation were a bit more reasonable (maybe something like, "the election commission staffer was rude and told me that I should have thought about this ahead of time"), then I could understand it. But, to go all-in behind someone making such an outrageous claim without hearing both sides doesn't seem prudent to me.

Remember, I'm not saying that this absolutely couldn't have happened. I'm just saying that this sounds too outrageous to pass judgment without hearing both sides.

BTW, in my undergrad days, I went to school 3 counties away from my home county. In those days, you couldn't get an absentee ballot if you were in the state and you couldn't vote outside of the prcinct in which you were registered. So, I went home to vote. But, when I moved out-of-state for grad school (two different states for two different degrees), I changed my residency each time (driver license, auto registration, etc) and registered to vote.

I imagine if the child in question were so "plugged in" and "informed", she may have researched the requirements for absentee voting. I found a summary of the process from the TN Secretary of State's Division of Elections with three mouse clicks on the computer andI found that they suggest that you request your absentee ballot by August 15, although the absolute last date to do so is October 30. If she were so "informed," why couldn't she plan ahead and do the simple web search I did?

Pam Strickland's picture

George, I'm only saying this


I'm only saying this one more time: She is not a child. And anybody, who isn't familiar with the way the laws have become so completely and totally twisted because of the Photo ID requirements probably believed that checking into the matter in mid-September was plenty of time. I certainly thought so.

When I learned about this situation about a week ago, I was appalled. I still am. My guess is that the legislature didn't stop to think about what kind of nonsense situations they were creating when they decided they wanted to protect the state from all those wild and crazy fake voters. I certainly hope they find a way to fix situations such as this one.

rikki's picture

I don't think the relevant

I don't think the relevant laws are anything new, nor are they unreasonable.

EDIT: As George has now shown.

rikki's picture

Your assertion that the

Your assertion that the statement attributed to the election official is "so off-the-wall, so outrageous" is probably the stupidest thing in your litany of stupid. "Tennessee is a red state, so your vote won't matter anyway" is a completely mundane remark we've all heard many times. If you find that outrageous, you must be quite the wilting lily.

Your claim that progressives inherently trust the government shows nothing more than how polluted your perceptions are by inane prejudices.

djuggler's picture

thinly veiled personal attacks do not belong here

George, I've been in this online arena for a very long time, am well seasoned, and not easily dragged into a flame war; however, your dim wit and sharp tongue are drawing a father's ire and if that is your intention, congratulations for you have achieved what few others could do.

Everyone here knows that I do not hide behind anonymity and I extend to you the same courtesy that I extend to anyone else. If you so desire to bring my parenting into question or further imply insult to my daughter, pick a coffee house of your choosing, and let's take it offline for a civil discourse for I will not disrespect this forum by derailing a potentially meaningful and serious conversation for petty personal attacks. I will buy your coffee. My email address is juggler@gmail.com or you can call 865-898-7189.

Otherwise, let us not nitpick a single person's experience but instead question the magnitude and ramification of 1) the Election Commission employee's impact on voting by the issuance of such a discouraging statement and how to prevent such from occurring again in the future; and 2) how to inform the public to prevent others from finding themselves in my daughter's situation. Your three clicks fail to address the issue of registering in person to be able to make that absentee vote.

There is more. While trying to find a way to get our daughter registered to vote, either Cathy or Sarah were also told that if TN were a swing state, we'd put more money into voter education. Perhaps that is the problem. Maybe Tennessee should run some PSAs well ahead of the election and deadlines to let people know about the registration process.

Doug McCaughan aka djuggler

George's picture

No personal attacks here

Doug, I have not made any personal attacks here and do not so intend. We've been presented with one side of a story. We don't have the other side of the story with which to make an informed opinion. Acknowledging that both parties are fallible human beings, the truth probably lies somewhere in the middle of both stories -- not entirely on one side or the other.

So, as to your first numbered question, we can't say for sure that the commission's employee said such things, so we can't conclude that it has any impact on voting.

On your second question, we can't launch a PSA campaign to address each and every possible voting scenario. Those who want to vote are going to have to make an effort to get their questions answered -- just like we can't launch a PSA campaign for everyone who wants to know how to update the address on their motorcycle operator license.

I don't see status as a "swing state" having any bearing on voter education. I've lived in two "swing states" in my life (the most recent of which being 3 years ago) and their voting rules were much more difficult to find than TN rules. BTW, "swing state" status changes. My home state was a "swing state" for many years, but no one would consider it one now.

Somebody's picture

You're kidding, right?

Doug, I have not made any personal attacks here and do not so intend.

Are we really taking a mom's account of what her college-age daughter said happened as the solemn truth, without giving so much as a listen to the other side of the story? Are college-age kids known for their unwaivering truthfulness and good decision-making? Do I actually see the words "butt" and "chugging" being used together in conjunction with kids of this same age?

Seems to me like you started right out of the gate with personal attacks. If you don't think that discounting the statements of someone's daughter via a comparison to the internationally infamous (alleged) abject debauchery of some other person isn't an insult, I'd hate to be around you when you think you are feeling a little punchy.

djuggler's picture

we can't say for sure that

we can't say for sure that the commission's employee said such things,

So short of having a recording of the conversation, we have to let this go as "didn't happen"? Are we to now live as "believe none of what you hear and only half of what you see"? As a character witness, not a parent but a true character witness, I can attest that if Sarah says it happened, then the EC employee absolutely said her vote wouldn't matter.

As for your PSA example regarding the motorcycle license, you have truly compared apples to oranges. The signification of updating your address on your motorcycle operator license pales in comparison to the importance of choosing how we shall be governed. Spending money on billboards that read "1st time voters must register in person by Oct 30" and "voting is your civic duty learn more at votingisyourcivicdutycometothiswebsitetolearnmore.com" seems a little more important than a billboard reading "glad you have a new address btw here's the procedure to update that identification." Perhaps if every time we had a clip on television or the web that referenced "butt chugging" it included a scroller with the words "please vote" maybe, just maybe, we could get a few more people to the polls.

George's picture

Forgive me if the entire

Forgive me if the entire thing sounds far-fetched, but it really does sound far-fetched. You've been to town, I've been to town -- this kind of thing doesn't happen much.

As for the PSA, there are voter registration notices in the newspaper, on the radio, on billboards, in magazines, and in the mail with your license plate and river license renewals. They all direct you to the same website that I found with Google. If all those don't get your attention, adding more won't do it, either.

But, spending money for billboards about 1st time registrants only? Why not spend money on change of address (wrong address = wrong precinct = no vote), or replacement registration cards (still need that, regardless of photo requirement), or unknown polling place? Insisting that a separate ad campaign be funded for each possible voting question can get costly really quick.

I wonder if you're not mis-stating the issue, too. You don't have to be present to register. You can register through the mail. But, you must vote in person at least once before you can obtain an absentee ballot. This keeps people from forging multiple registrations and filling out multiple fraudulent ballots and it helps to enforce that only residents of a particular area should vote in that area. You wouldn't want people who live in Jackson to vote in local Koxville matters.

rikki's picture


Forgive me if the entire thing sounds far-fetched, but it really does sound far-fetched. You've been to town, I've been to town -- this kind of thing doesn't happen much.

You're wrong. Rudeness and partisanship from election officials is common, and there are probably a half-dozen or more threads on KnoxViews about poor behavior on the part of Knox County election officials. That is why your inane assertion that we should be on the side of the bureaucrat because we're "progressives" makes you look like a floundering moron.

Most glaring is the fact that Republican legislators nominated and knowingly appointed to the election commission a man who has repeatedly committed voter fraud. There was considerable uproar about that, and not just from Democrats or progressives, but it was disregarded just like you wish to disregard this incident.

The election commission closed a heavily used, long established voting ward based on a single, dubious complaint, and that ward just happens to generate more Democratic votes than any ward but 24Q.

In a case that should have and would have in years past required a citizen challenge, the Knox commission decided that it had legal standing to refuse the candidacy of a registered voter in her proper district then kicked her out of Knox County along with a couple neighbors.

Those are just a few examples of not just rude and improper behavior from KCEC under Cliff Rodgers, but examples as well of the disregard Democratic grievances receive regardless of how well founded or far fetched they might be.

btw, you owe apologies to at least three people, and you ought to muster up the decency to spit them out.

reform4's picture

You forgot the meeting with Mark Harmon

Watching the tape made me ashamed of our EC. They got angry and personal instead of addressing the issue. Completely unprofessional. Watch that tape, and you can very much imagine them saying "you're vote won't matter anyway." Easily.

rikki's picture

good suggestion

"1st time voters must register in person by Oct 30"

Actually, registration ends this coming Monday, October 8. I think the 30th is the date for your registered-by-mail daughter to request in person an absentee ballot. I'd hate for someone reading this thread to think they have more time to register than they really do.

I suspect plenty of people will try to register in the coming month and be told they are too late to qualify for November's election. That does not mean they are being disenfranchised. Unless we switch to dipping fingers in purple ink, there has to be a registration deadline. No one is being prevented from registering to vote, though a rude or poorly trained worker might discourage someone from registering or fail to make them aware that they can.

I don't have issue with the laws in these cases, only with the rude treatment your daughter received. I do like your suggestion of allowing other state's election officials to process her registration or her absentee ballot request. It's reasonable, and it shrinks the legal trap voters can get caught in.

Rachel's picture

Unless we switch to dipping

Unless we switch to dipping fingers in purple ink, there has to be a registration deadline.

Why? If I'm not mistaken, Minnesota allows same day registration, thus making it as easy to vote as possible.

rikki's picture

I suppose there is a way to

I suppose there is a way to do that securely, but preparing the rolls for each polling place takes time, and so does processing a registration. I don't see deadlines as unreasonable or improper.

Nelle's picture


That's how I voted when I was a student in MN. I brought my proof of address on Election Day, & I registered and voted in one fell swoop.

NC allows same-day registration during early voting

Civilized places seek to encourage voting, not reduce access to the ballot.

djuggler's picture

registration ends this coming

registration ends this coming Monday, October 8

Whoops. Just a typo.

Average Guy's picture

Remember, I'm not saying that

Remember, I'm not saying that this absolutely couldn't have happened.

But remember, you did compare a Dean's list student to a butt-chugging pike.

And remember, you have been told (by an adult) this has happened.

So what is your point? Wait until some EC worker owns up to something that should get them fired? Regardless where you've lived, you now live in Knox County, where that does not happen. State what you want and compare what you want, I'll take the word of the "kid" on the Dean's list.

George's picture

Come on, now!

Pam, I only referred to her as a child because the original post came from her mother's blog and that her daughter will always be her child, no matter how old she is. I am my mother's child, even at my old age. However, the law requiring that those seeking registration by mail appear to vote in person once before requesting an absentee ballot is not new.

According to Tenn. Code Ann. § 2-2-115, subdivision (b)(7), which mandates appearance, was passed in 1972 by the democrat-dominated House and Senate.

George's picture

My point is ...

My point is that the law is 40 years old. It's not new.

My post was in response to Pam's post, in which she implied that the appearance requirement for registrations by mail had something to do with recent Photo ID requirements or or that this requirement came out of some recent political development.

My point was that her thoughts were not based in fact and that this requirement has been on the books for 40 years. The law was passed by democrat majorities in the House and Senate, and was signed into law by a republican governor.

Pam Strickland's picture

That's malarkey. Her mother

That's malarkey. Her mother did not refer to her as a child. You are as inane as that Pike lawyer who called the reporter "sweetheart."

And while the law having been on the books since 1972 doesn't help matters. It's still inane.

George's picture

Whoa there!

I didn't say that Cathy referred to her daughter as a child. I just said that Cathy's daughter was and is her child. If Cathy's daughter is not Cathy's child, please let me know. I made the assumption that the two were biologically related mother and child (or would you prefer offspring).

I know that the age of the law has no bearing on whether you like it. But, it has nothing to do with Photo ID laws and it shows that concern about voter fraud is nothing new -- the legislature took bi-partisan action 40 years ago because they were concerned about voter fraud.

rikki's picture


If Cathy's daughter is not Cathy's child, please let me know.

Yep, no personal attacks from sweet ol' Georgie.

Average Guy's picture

My point is that the law is

My point is that the law is 40 years old. It's not new.

A point that could have been made without challenging a stranger's truthfulness, her age or drawing any parallels to the actions of an idiot in the pike house.

George's picture

I think you're confused.

I think you're confused. That post was in response to Pam Strickland's assertion that the law was new. I made the point that it was not new and I did not challenge Pam's truthfulness, age, or actions.

I did challenge the telling of a third-hand account of a conversation. I did not draw any parallels to the actions of others -- I merely used that as an example to illustrate that young folks don't always make the best decisions, regardless of the purity of their intentions.

It looks like you're confused.

R. Neal's picture

It looks like you are a

It looks like you are a troll. Go away.

rikki's picture

It's a second-hand report,

It's a second-hand report, though I am sure it felt like third-hand by the time it filtered through your brain. It's comforting to know that your ongoing assertion that neither Sarah nor Cathy is being truthful is not a personal attack, but rather a blanket dismissal of all college-aged adults and their mothers, if not humanity in general.

Up Goose Creek's picture

Out of state

Doug, Could Sarah vote from her college address?

That's what I did in '76 and I knew d*^# well my vote wouln't matter in Georgia. But I wouldn't have missed the jubilant atmosphere at the polling place for anything.

Average Guy's picture

I did challenge the telling

I did challenge the telling of a third-hand account of a conversation.

With no basis to do so.

I don't think you're confused, I think your nasty intentions were clear.

You don't know what was said, but want to hold out that because it was said by a college student, it's probably a lie.

This, in light of the fact that you have been told by a certified adult, whom you've not challenged, this can and does happen.

Fabricant's picture

Invalidating the story

Invalidating the story because of the child's age is a poor argument (or as metulj might say, "a pseudo-logical" argument). People of all ages do stupid things, so it is erroneous to generalize an individual act to the whole age group. There is little reason to assume the story is fabricated. Regardless, it appears the election commission is trying cover its tracks. Let's hope it is not intentionally discouraging people to vote!

With that said, the irony is that the election officer told Sarah the truth. No matter how many college kids come home to vote, Tennessee will be a red state in the presidential election. It doesn't mean that she shouldn't vote or that her vote doesn't count, it just means her vote will not change the outcome of the presidential election. She may or may not influence local or state outcomes, but she will not impact the presidential one if she votes in Tennessee. That may have been all the election officer was saying. Therefore, I'm not sure I'm willing to sound the alarms of disenfranchisement nor am I willing to call the election commission a bunch of Vogons because someone was conveying a basic fact that is accepted by Obama and Romney themselves. I see no evidence of votes being intentionally invalidated by the commission office in this case.

With that said, while voting may be both a privilege and a responsibility, we should not fool ourselves into believing today's election process is much more than the outcome of rationalized multi-million dollar marketing campaigns aimed at maximizing votes in key states, much like a corporation tries to maximize sales through TV ads. I'm afraid there may be a gap between our democratic ideals and the actual reality of voting/polling today. Compared to this larger issue, the former one resembles a drop in the ocean...but what is the ocean if not a multitude of drops?

rikki's picture

be the drop

Those drops are the local and state elections where Sarah's vote and the votes of college students can easily change the outcome. Participation in non-federal elections among the young is negligible. If that were to change, the whole system would change.

Fabricant's picture

How would it change the

How would it change the system? Why should we assume it would? Also, do we know if Sarah was upset because she couldn't vote in state and local elections or because she couldn't vote for Obama or Romney? I bet she would say both, but I'd be skeptical.

I still don't think her vote was intentionally invalidated.

Fabricant's picture

I don't know the numbers but

I don't know the numbers but I think voter turn out in Knoxville during presidential elections is much higher than non-presidential elections. What percentage of the Knoxville voting population turns out to vote when only local elections are on the ballot? I'm not sure but I think it's around ten to twenty percent? As Rikki stated, young people make up a small percent of this already small turnout. So, I'm skeptical that an 18 year old voting for the first time would be drawn to the state and local elections more than she would be drawn to the Romney v. Obama battle. It's not impossible but seems unlikely.

rikki's picture

strong argument

You are skeptical about an irrelevant point. I hope slight breeze doesn't come along and blow you over.

Everyone understands what the election official meant. There is no need for any logical parsing of the remark. It's an inappropriate and unprofessional remark for a public servant to make to any citizen, regardless of its veracity. Your attempt to factcheck it is an act of folly.

Fabricant's picture

Someone was rude. Big deal.

My original response was removed. Why? I don't know, I wasn't given a reason. (How's that for some democratic communication.)

Anyway,Rikki, I basically think you have missed the point. The issue is not inappropriate and unprofessional behavior at the local election office call center but the irresponsible and over the top reaction. We should not equate rudeness with disenfranchisement. That is an insult to those who really experience voter intimidation and the like, past or present. All the girl has to do is drive to Knoxville to vote. Heftier prices have been paid.

A significant problem underlying this discussion is the nature of political apathy. Is apathy the reason for low voter turnout or is apathy the consequence of an election process that is formally democratic but lacking real democratic substance?

reform4's picture


"All the girl has to do is drive to Knoxville to vote."

From New York. While trying to attend college. Really?

Gas + time = a poll tax. Simple as that. Poll taxes are unconstitutional.

When I turned 18 (1984), I was going to college out of state, also in New York, and I did not have to vote the first time in person, I voted by absentee ballot. No questions, no fuss.

Fabricant's picture

Did you register to vote from

Did you register to vote from New York or Tennessee?

Her travels in this case would not be considered a poll tax because Sarah failed to register before she left. It's not the state's responsibility to make sure everyone registers before they go off to school.

The policy is not stacked up against her and she's not being disenfranchised, the original charge that is now being conveniently dissolved, as if it were fine to throw around accusations of disenfranchisement. However, rudeness from an election officer will be bitterly condemned.

rikki's picture


It would change the system by changing who wins elections. There are more voters 18-28 years old than in any other age cohort, yet the 18-28 cohort generates the fewest votes. The young always have the most democratic power, but they rarely exercise it.

If you could get a quarter of Knox countians under 30 to vote in the 2014 state and county elections, you would have a voting bloc that could change the outcome of every contest.

Rachel's picture

I've said ever since I worked

I've said ever since I worked to get UT students the right to vote in Knoxville back in 70 or 71 (it took a class action lawsuit to get the EC to allow students to vote here) that if UT students would wake up and vote they could have a huge impact on what happens in this town.

Hasn't happened in 40 years, tho, and it's not likely to happen anytime soon.

Fabricant's picture

I'm skeptical. Actually,

I'm skeptical. Actually, this is extremely naive. All sorts of hidden social/political forces would work to counter any systemic change. And the powers that be would certainly protect the system. Electoral rezoning, blue-dog democrats, more turn out from the 28 and over cohort, just to name a few. And there is no reason to assume young people are politically more mature than older people.

And I have no idea what you mean when you say young people have more "democratic power." What is that?

Have fun playing with your legos.

rikki's picture

Democratic power is votes.

Democratic power is votes.

Fabricant's picture


Hardly. Besides, the 18 to 28 year old cohort does not make up the majority of the voting population. So what is your point?

rikki's picture

Just about everyone in this

Just about everyone in this thread has said that the election official's remark was unprofessional but not illegal nor disenfranchising. You are making the same claim, yet you think you are making a point of disagreement. Now you are disputing the simple, fundamental idea that democratic power is measured in votes.

So obviously the point is that you will dispute anything even if you have to murder meaning and eviscerate comprehension to get there. Your prejudices have rendered you incapable of functional conversation.

Fabricant's picture

I'm not making the same claim

I'm not making the same claim as everyone here. I was the first one to bring up the idea that the accusation of disenfranchisement is inappropriate and irresponsible. Who else said this? I heard lots of complaints about the rudeness of the election officer's comments but I heard no one complain about the false accusation. Who else here commented on the seriousness of this accusation?

Rikki, the point is that you think you know what people are saying when you do not. And your trite declarations are a function of your weakness. I'm trying to have a deliberative conversation, not a functional one.

Voting is the most superficial and most visible form of formal democratic politics. Underlying these voting options is a larger matrix of social power, consisting of societal forces that shape and reshape politicians and voters perceptions of reality, the types of policies on the table, what options are available and which ones are not.

For instance, we've recently witnessed an historical pattern of development that is not democratic. The direction our societies were pointing in 1960 were way different then the direction they point today. So, we've seen a shift from Fordism to post-Fordism, the Welfare State to Neoliberalism etc. This shift cannot be explained by politics alone. The US, Europe, the Soviet bloc, all had different types of political parties in power in the 1970s. Yet they all underwent a fundamental transformation at the same time. It didn't matter which political party was in power, whether it was republican, democratic, socialist or communist. Each experienced a transformation that was global in nature and calls into question the power of politics to shape history and outcomes.

Real democratic power would mean that the direction our societies move would be consciously channeled and controlled through a harmony of collective and individual agency in which history would unfold contingently--in the name of life, liberty and the pursuit of happiness. History since the 19th century, however, involves some level of continuity that cannot be explained in solely contingent terms or at the contemporary whims of formal democratic societies.

So, the options available to voters in the 1960s were different then the ones presented to us today because we live in a different societal context, shaped by societal forces we do not understand. Rikki exemplifies this lack of understanding.

Pam Strickland's picture

George, every time you come

George, every time you come back, you add something and twist it. Just shut up and go away.

R. Neal's picture

Great article, cwg.

Great article, cwg. A good argument for abolishing the antiquated electoral vote (from the days when votes had to be delivered to the capital by mule) and electing presidents by popular vote.

rikki's picture

not people

Exit polls are not just tools for election-night predictions and, as cwg pointed out, demographic research; they are also a check on the integrity of the results. Projections that Gore would win Florida in 2000 did not reveal a flaw in the sampling technique. They revealed how much fraud was occurring.

This is an example of a corporate decision starving out the public good.

cwg's picture

I just find it crazy that the

I just find it crazy that the AP/etc are polling in CA, despite being an obviously safe blue state, but not in TX - or ANYWHERE in the South besides NC and FL. It's embarrassing.

rikki's picture

lesser evil

California has the GMO labeling initiative, which anyone who favors free markets would support.

One of the saddest things about Tenn.'s exclusion is that it will make it harder to see what impact photo-ID laws have on turnout. I have to admit I am relieved to see that this list really does look like a cull of the irrelevant, rather than looking like a convenient excuse to obscure irregularities in the results.

I think it's ridiculous that any states are being ignored, but at least it is more dumbassery than corruption.

bizgrrl's picture

Pretty interesting map that

Pretty interesting map that goes along with the Washington Post article referenced by cwg.

CathyMcCaughan's picture

I'm not sure why a few

I'm not sure why a few unverified commenters feel that I am required to keep this site informed since I didn't start this thread and quit reading when it became a troll party so consider this your only update.

Sarah texted this afternoon to say that she and Cliff had a nice talk today. There was never any ill intention from the Election Commission. She is too cool to be embarrassed by me, but told me to chill. The only time I wasn't chill was when I was following this thread.

I sincerely apologize for calling Election Commission employees Vogons. I'm sure they are not fictional aliens.

I love the STEM Academy. I have praised it since it was first rumored.

George's picture

Apology accepted

I accept your apology, Cathy. I thought we weren't getting the whole story and it turns out that we weren't.

djuggler's picture

George, you don't read well

George, you don't read well do you. Cathy did not apologize to you nor does she owe the likes of you an apology.

What part of the story was incomplete?

Now, grow a pair, verify your account, and put your real name where your mouth is. Or are you too intellectually challenged to see the irony in demeaning a person's character while hiding behind the curtain of anonymity? ("Neither of you have the character of Cliff Rodgers." -Submitted by Remember Cathy (not verified) on Thu, 2012/10/04 - 3:55pm.)

Dave Prince's picture

That's only cute when Colbert

That's only cute when Colbert does it, and Colbert only does it to make fun of you.

underthebusdem's picture

out of state students can vote using college address

The Supreme court has said out of state students may register using a college address. So this young lady could register and vote in NY if she so chose to.

Rachel's picture

George: Do something


Do something constructive and go away. Please.

underthebusdem's picture

or she could vote at home

This is not George. This is a dem under the bus. There are many local dems under the bus. But my personal location is not the point of this post. I know that this young lady may vote using her parents address or her college address, but not both. She is a legally registered voter using either address. Me, i registered at home before leaving for college and then voted "early absentee" (days before formal early voting) when i came home from college for fall break. But dont jump to so many conclusions about screennames, my fellow dems, lest you end up under the bus.

Sylvia Woods's picture

See registration form

Go to Knoxvotes.org and click on the line on the left that talks about voting. It will bring up a voter registration form. See the red line that says if you register by mail, you must vote in person the first time.

If you register in person, you can vote absentee.

Parents make sure you take your child to register to vote as soon as they turn 18 and are still at home. Then they will be able to vote no matter where they go off to school.

underthebusdem's picture

Nothing to see here. keep moving on

Wow, the tail that wags the dog speaks when a dem under the bus pokes their head out. Sylvia, im sure they had not figured out the rules for registering to vote and voting, already, without your illustrious post. Now they can rest assured that the already purchased plane ticket was the appropriate thing to do because of your post. Dont worry, sylvia, we under the bus know where we stand and will never challenge you. We are quite happy to continue to watch every prediction you ever made about tn state politics come true while you have been at the helm in one fashion or another.

Rachel's picture

Man, is THIS uncalled for.

Man, is THIS uncalled for. Nothing but personal attack. Randy, could you please deal with guy?

Pam Strickland's picture

Sylvia, The problem here is


The problem here is that Cathy's daughter did not turn 18 until she was off at college, so she couldn't register before she left. That doesn't happen often these days, but it does happen periodically. It was the same for me back in the 70s.

So there is that problematic situation for a few folks.

Min's picture

Back in the day...

...and I mean waaaay back in the day, I registered at 17. I wasn't yet 18 when I started attending UT, but I was going to be 18 by the next gubernatorial election, so I registered to vote when I registered for classes.

Fabricant's picture

That's right.

I think Min is right.

Jimmy's picture

Something doesn't add up

I've been watching this discussion, but so far I have kept my thoughts to myself. Still keeping my thoughts to myself about the topic, I think I something else needs to be addressed.

After Cathy's admittedly reluctant update (which sounded like a thinly veiled mea culpa), this George character posted a surprisingly cogent post that pointed out the hypocrisy of some on this board and pointed out that Cathy did not update her own blog, in effect misleading those who may read that blog but not her update on this site.

After all that, George's post was removed. In my first post on this board, I must say I find it hypocritical that a board that posts Pam Strickland's article that railed against censorship at a local high school (the yearbook article) will censor those whose opinions differ from whoever runs the board.

Either you believe in freedom from censorship or you don't. This board has made it obvious they endorse censorship and don't want a free exchange of ideas.

fischbobber's picture

Oft times

The rookies don't know the difference between censorship and editorial discretion. Nor do the amateurs.

Rachel's picture


Let's make it easy - if it's not done by the government, it's not censorship.

fischbobber's picture

Government, Big Brother and censorship

I think that by saying an independent decision to disqualify a comment does not qualify as censorship is a rather simplistic, and often, mistaken view of how modern media works.

I think opening up a forum, such as this, will lend itself to making decisions that are not always popular. Sometimes, by sticking to a distinctly personal code of ethics, an editor may seem to be playing to one audience or another.

As a writer who makes a point of trying to find the line between great and unacceptable writing, I can honestly say that Randy does an outstanding job of editing, and I would point to the fact that you are reading this post as evidence of such. I've been fired for far less than some of the work I've submitted here.

All that being said, the private sector is where censorship is thriving. Like it or not, the private sector is big brother, not the government.

Editing in and of itself is not censorship. Editing for the purpose of shaping an argument or public debate is. I've been edited in this forum. Obviously, I didn't spend my time writing a piece just so it would be dropped. But just as obviously (to me, most of y'all never saw the stuff) the stuff that was dropped wasn't dropped because of the viewpoint it espoused (censorship) but rather because of the style that viewpoint was presented in (legitimate editing and branding).

There's nothing about the communication business that is easy.

Rachel's picture

Let's try this again: if the

Let's try this again: if the govt isn't doing it, it's not covered under the first amendment right to free speech. An individual (or a publication) has the right to not have his/her/its speech interferred with by the govt (except under certain narrow conditions). An individual has no such RIGHT when it comes to private publications like this website or the KNS.

The colloquial use of the word "censorship" could indeed be thought of as "editing for the purpose of shaping an argument or public debate." But the legal use of the term only applies to the government.

Pam Strickland's picture

George's comments appear to

George's comments appear to still be here in all their weird glory.

R. Neal's picture

See update at top of original

See update at top of original post. AOE Rodgers was asked specifically if he had been able to determine whether someone in the EC office made the remark about votes "not counting" and what if any action he had taken. He didn't address that, but said all issues had been resolved.

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