Appointment and Education of Election Officials

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The appointment of county election officials normally begins with a nomination process. The county primary board for each party shall (and the executive committee of each party may) submit names to the county election commission 30 days prior to the appointment time. If the nominees meet the qualifications to serve, the election commission shall appoint them. T.C.A. §§ 2-4-103 through -106. However, the commission may refuse to appoint any person who, in the opinion of the commission members from his or her political party, is unfit to serve. If there is an inadequate number of nominees, the county election commission may appoint as many additional people as necessary. T.C.A. § 2-4-106.

From these nominees, if possible, the majority and minority party factions of the county election commission each appoint one precinct registrar for each polling place. For most counties, these appointments are made for each election, but they are made for two-year terms in Shelby County (identified by population class). T.C.A. § 2-12-202. The county election commission is also directed to appoint, at a minimum, one officer of elections and three judges for each polling place. Two of the judges appointed shall concurrently serve as the precinct registrars in accordance with T.C.A. § 2-12-202. In precincts where voting machines are used, any judge not serving as a precinct registrar shall concurrently serve as a machine operator. One machine operator can operate up to two voting machines. T.C.A. § 2-4-102. Each of these officers, as well as precinct registrars and assistant precinct registrars, must be registered voters and shall reside in the county in which they are appointed to serve. T.C.A. § 2-4-103. If any election official fails to appear at the polling place, the officer of elections or, in such officer's absence, a majority of the election officials attending, shall select a person to fill the vacancy who is a registered voter of the county. Persons chosen to fill vacancies shall be, whenever practical, members of the same party as the person they are replacing. T.C.A. § 2-7-105. Notwithstanding any other provision of law to the contrary, a county election commission may appoint a person who has reached the age of 17 years as an election official provided that they meet all the other requirements to serve. T.C.A. § 2-4-103(e).

The election commission may also appoint as many inspectors as they deem necessary, who must be registered voters and inhabitants of the county. Inspectors investigate the conduct of elections on behalf of the election commission and report any irregularities to the commission. T.C.A. § 2-4-102.

Not more than two judges at a polling place may be of the same political party if those from different parties are willing to serve. T.C.A. § 2-4-104. If it is practicable, no more than one-half of the election officials at one polling place, and one-half the total number of county inspectors, may be of the same political party. If only one party elects to hold a primary, then only members of that party may serve as election officials. T.C.A. § 2-4-105. Election officials are to be notified of their appointments on a statutorily prescribed form. T.C.A. § 2-4-107.

The county election commission is also responsible for instructing the election officials in their duties. After the appointment of the election officials pursuant toT.C.A. § 2-4-102, a meeting is to be held for this purpose; attendance may be limited to those who are inexperienced or otherwise in need of such training. The officials are to be paid $10 each for the time spent in training and qualifying but only if they serve in the election. T.C.A. § 2-4-108. They are to be paid $50 for service on election day. The amounts of compensation can be increased by the county legislative body. T.C.A. § 2-4-109.