A dispute over Davidson County’s early voting locations reached a new level on Wednesday, with some members of the Metro Council threatening to cut funding for the Election Commission.
The threat came as a response to a recent decision by election officials to close 10 polling places this summer — leaving only one open for early voting.
At an operations budget meeting, Councilman Ronnie Steine said the city has provided more than enough money to run several early voting sites.
“So if they’re not going to do early voting sites, then I think we need to look at an appropriate reduction in their budget for each early voting sites that they don’t use,” Steine said.
The councilman said he doesn't want to go down that path — and that the commission deserves more funding in the coming years — but that they've asked for too large of an increase on top of about $1 million that Mayor Karl Dean allotted.
"There’s a distinct difference between need and want," Steine said. "Nobody has the audacity to ask for (the money) all at one time."
Mayor Karl Dean and other leaders have already asked election officials to reverse their decision so that more Nashvillians have a chance to vote close to where they live. But election leaders have demanded more city money before they'll do that, a tactic that displeased Councilwoman Sheri Weiner.
“I don’t think that the voters need to be held hostage,” she said. "I think that we do need to have the opportunity for our voting public, in the community, to have easy, free, and fair access, and convenience.”
The Election Commission next meets Thursday afternoon, but the issue of early voting sites is not on the agenda.
"I hope that they’re going to come to their senses," Steine said.
The next council budget meeting is Monday, with a vote expected Tuesday on the entire operations budget.