TBI launches investigation into Rhea County's voting challenges - WRCBtv.com | Chattanooga News, Weather & Sports

TBI launches investigation into Rhea County's voting challenges

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RHEA COUNTY, TN. (WRCB)  --  When registered voter Helen Kincannon cast her ballot in Rhea County's Republican primary, an election worker told her the vote would be challenged.

"I have not always voted a straight Democrat ticket," Kincannon says.   

State law says voters cannot switch parties in a one party election. In Rhea County, there are two Republican candidates, however Democrats say they aren't the only ones getting turned away.

"They challenge them, whether they're a Democrat or Republican," says Election Commissioner Johnny Harwood.

Election commission officials say they're not breaking any laws and they have nothing to hide. They're just trying to be as fair as they can to the voters and the candidates.

Election Administrator Theresa Snyder admits election officials have turned voters away. She says there's an organized plan to get Democrats to vote in the Republican primary and choose the Republican candidate.

"People have died for this right and today it's being challenged," says candidate, Ron Travis.

Travis is running against Jim Cobb for state representative in the Republican primary. Cobb has been in office for three terms. He claims Travis is really a Democrat.

"You sign up to run in the opposite party primary, and then you get your party to come over and vote in the other primary," explains Cobb.  

"I have been a Republican since I was 18 years old," Travis says.  

Many believe the game of politics goes too far in Rhea County and that voters are the real losers.

"I don't embrace the idea of a challenge. I'm not endorsing the challenge," says Cobb. 

"We are registered voters. We do not register as a Democrat or Republican or Independent," explains Kincannon.

Once a vote is challenged, three judges will review the voter's voting background in a trial. If they find the voter is affiliated with the opposite party, the vote does not count.  

The TBI is currently investigating the situation.

District Attorney Mike Taylor says he received numerous complaints from Republicans and Democrats, which prompted the investigation.

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