State Sen. Bill Ketron used the case of a Rutherford County Democratic Party official to illustrate the need for stricter voting laws in Tennessee during a press conference Monday.
This voter registration form from 1992 shows where RuCo Democratic Party Vice Chairman Tony Pegel answered "yes" to whether he had been convicted of a felony.
Ketron alleged county party Vice Chairman Tony Pegel voted illegally 18 times from 1992 until his rights were restored in April 2011.
“This is not about restoration of voting rights for felons. There is a process for that,” Ketron said. “This is about following the laws we have on the books. That was not what happened for 16 years here as he was ineligible under Tennessee law.”
Pegel and Rutherford County Democratic Party President Justin St. Clair were unavailable for comment.
Pegel was convicted of robbing the Smokey Mountain Market in East Tennessee in 1984. He served 10 years probation and was eligible to apply to have his rights restored in 1994, two years after he registered to vote.
During the press conference, Ketron produced documentation from the Rutherford County Election Commission, which shows Pegel checked “yes” on the voter registration form where it asks if the applicant has been convicted of a felony.
However Pegel failed to notify the Election Commission what he had been convicted of and that his rights had not been restored.
Rutherford County Elections Administrator Nicole Lester said it would be difficult for a felon to stay on the rolls as long as Pegel did in this day and computer age.
“In 1992, things weren’t computerized,” she said, explaining the Election Commission now purges voters daily with lists of recently deceased voters and recently convicted felons from the state election commission and courts.
“This is something that goes on 365 days a year,” Lester said.
But back in 1992, there was no real way to purge voting rolls as easily.
“Whoever processed him put him on by mistake,” Lester said. “And he voted for years.”
Ketron also produced documentation that shows Pegel had his rights restored on April 19 and was re-registered on April 25, around a month before he was elected to a leadership position in the county Democratic Party.
“This documentation has been vetted by the Rutherford County Election Commission and verified by Mark Goins at the state election commission,” Ketron said.
Not only was the local election commission unaware of Pegel’s allegedly illegal voting, but the state Democratic Party was aware of his past crimes.
“Democratic Chairman Chip Forrester was told of this issue months ago and nothing was done,” said Jonathon Fagan, former county Democratic Party chairman, who was also on hand at the press conference.
Fagan said he brought the situation to Forrester, who never returned his calls. He finally approached Ketron, because he is concerned about the leadership of the Democratic Party in the state.
“If the leadership of the Democratic Party ignored this, what else are they ignoring,” Fagan said.
Ketron used the opportunity to tout his voter ID law, which goes into effect in January and requires a photo ID to be produced when voting.
“There has been much in the media lately regarding the frequency of ineligible voting, with many Democrats and media sources reporting that there is little or no fraud in Tennessee,” Ketron said. “This is not factual. Today we (brought) forth a prime example of ineligible voting by a ranking local Democratic officer.”