Data from the registration and declination forms are entered into a state wide Voter Registration Tracking System (VRTS) and the original registration forms are delivered to the local election commission office for verification and processing.
Eduardo Choate Sr., who is an American citizen, contacted The People News because he said he was outraged to discover that two friends, who speak little English, had been urged to register even though they had made it clear to the DHS official that they were not US citizens. He said they were told that the Election Commission would determine if they were eligible to vote.
An audio tape obtained by The People News confirms Choate's allegation.
On the tape, a female DHS official is asked by an applicant, "How do I register to vote, what do I need to do?"
Official - "Fill that out, give it to us and we will send it in for you and they will send you a voter's registration card."
Applicant - "They'll send me a voters registration card?"
Official - "Em hum, we send it to the election commission after you fill that out. We mail it in."
Applicant - "OK, but... anybody can register even if I'm not a citizen?"
Official - "You can register, but I don't know.... you know... if it'll be approved, but you certainly can register."
After filling out the form the applicant returned to the official - "Is this all I need?"
Official - "All right, we'll send this in for you."
Bradley County Director of Election Commission, David Ellis, said that his office has no way of determining if an applicant is a US citizen. He said, his office relies on the honesty of the person and the legal penalties associated with misrepresentation. Ellis said, it clearly states on the Voter Registration form that it is a felony to falsely claim eligibility and also said it was a Class E felony under Tennessee Code 2-19-117 to assist another to vote knowing they were disqualified.
Allen Goldston, Director of the Department of Human Services office in Cleveland, said he was concerned and he would be conducting an investigation into the allegation as soon as possible.
Michelle Mallory-Johnson, Communications Director for the Tennessee Department of Human Services in Nashville, said her office and the office of Compliance Director, Crystal Oliver, had been alerted to the situation in Cleveland. She said that the Motor Voter Act required her department to register voters and that it was illegal for state service employees to ask a client's citizen status. She said, department policy sets a clear procedure when assisting with voter registration and she needed to investigate further. When asked if ineligible persons were being registered to vote at Department of Human Services offices elsewhere in Tennessee, Oliver said, she believed that what happened in Cleveland was an isolated case.