The Davidson County Election Commission apologized on Tuesday for what election administrator Jeff Roberts called a typographical error that led to the names of incumbent state Senators Steve Dickerson and Ferrell Haile’s names being capitalized on sample ballots sent to Nashville voters this week.
Dickerson and Haile were the only candidates on the sample ballots whose names were capitalized, prompting criticism from their challengers in the November election. Candidates for all other offices, including President Donald Trump, had their names in lower case.
Dickerson in particular is viewed to be in a tough re-election fight against Democratic Heidi Campbell.
“In low-information elections like State Legislative races, the manner in which a candidate’s name is listed can be hugely impactful – a fact which is well known to the Commission,” Campbell’s campaign said in a statement released by campaign manager Frank Hundley. “This is a flagrantly partisan attempt to advantage their candidates. This is undemocratic, and in violation of the election commission’s sacred responsibility to conduct free and fair elections.”
Roberts issued a press release apologizing to both Campbell and to Haile’s challenger, independent candidate John A. Gentry.
Roberts explained the mistake to the Tennessee Lookout, “Because of the number of presidential candidates, we had to change the font style from August. In August, all candidates were listed in all caps. So we started off, we just copied over from August the Republican candidates and we failed to change those two names into lower case.”
Roberts said that the actual ballots voters use when they vote absentee, or in-person will not have any names in upper case.
Prior to Roberts’ assurance that no names would be capitalized on the official ballots, Campbell’s campaign comment demanded that a second round of sample ballots be sent out without any names in all-caps.
Tennessee Democratic Party chairwoman Mary Mancini said the race between Dickerson and Campbell is going to be close and the “shenanigans are inexcusable.”
“The Campbell campaign demands that the Republican-controlled Election Commission reissue the sample ballots with their candidates’ names listed in the same fashion as all the other candidates, to make the same correction on their website, and to commit, in writing, that no candidates’ names will be capitalized on the actual ballot during the elections,” her campaign said in a statement released by Hundley.