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Election commission preparing for upcoming balloting

From the Cleveland Daily Banner: With the presidential preference primary and county primary nearing, the Bradley County Election Commission is st

From the Cleveland Daily Banner: With the presidential preference primary and county primary nearing, the Bradley County Election Commission is still working to pin down some of the details.


On March 5, registered voters of Bradley County will be able to exercise their civic duty at the ballot box. Those wishing to avoid the lines on presidential preference primary day have the chance to vote early, from Feb. 14-27.


After having previously lost access to Bradley Square Mall as an early voting location, Fran Green, administrator of elections in Bradley County, was pleased to tell the election commission on Monday, Dec. 18, that the mall has agreed to allow early voting onsite.


Typically, early voting is offered starting at 9 a.m., but early voting at Bradley Square Mall will abide by the mall’s hours of operation, which means voting there will not begin until 10 a.m.


The mall joins the College Hill Recreational Center and the office of the Bradley County Election Commission as early voting locations, with Green and election commissioners still seeking a fourth location on the south side of Cleveland.


Private Property

During the previous election cycle, in 2022, some residents demonstrated at early voting locations, encouraging voters to “demand a paper ballot.”


Following their first day of demonstrations, the word “demand” was removed from their signs after the elections office requested they move at least 100 feet away from the voting location.


The law states that within 100 feet of polling locations “the display of campaign posters, signs or other campaign materials, distribution of campaign materials and solicitation of votes for or against any person, political party or position on a question are prohibited.”


On Election Day in 2022, some of these demonstrators were positioned outside of voting locations, like at E.L. Ross Elementary.


Travis Henry, chairman of the election commission, informed the commissioners of a letter he received from Cleveland City Schools which addresses the district’s right to prohibit such demonstrations going forward.


“[Cleveland City Schools], in connection with their legal counsel, they took up the question about the folks that set up tables at the precincts and try to advocate for paper ballots, and so they posed the question to their legal counsel about whether or not they could prohibit that from taking place at the school voting sites,” Henry stated. “They believe that they can prevent that from taking place — that it does violate the proximity [of 100 feet], but that they, as a school, have control over who they can allow onto the school property.”


Election Commissioner Kezmond Pugh pointed out that the election commission is not permitted to enforce concerns of private property, but the owner of the private property in question can choose to enforce it.



At a recent conference for election commissioners in Pigeon Forge, Pugh said election commission offices were encouraged to have security at each voting precinct.


Speaking about those hoping to demonstrate in support of using paper ballots, or anyone else, Pugh added, “I think we need to look at [security] because I think we’re going to run into that — they’re mad that they can’t be everywhere, and if they can’t be at the schools, they’ll for sure try to go to private property.”


Green said it is her hope to be able to sit down with Bradley County Sheriff Steve Lawson and Cleveland Police Chief Mark Gibson to express the importance of officers knowing and understanding election laws, regarding proximity and other subjects, leading up to the early voting cycle.


One avenue the election commission is considering for security at voting locations is paying constables to be present.


It was acknowledged that two constable seats, in District 1 and District 6, will be on the ballot, but the option of constables was preferred over hiring security officers.


How much they might be compensated was not determined.


The election commission’s next meeting is set for 2 p.m. on Monday, Jan. 8.