COOKEVILLE, Tenn. - It wasn't her election, but it's now Debbie Steidl's problem: the 6-year-old case of a Cookeville man, with zero documentation to prove U.S. citizenship, being allowed to vote and now working backward to be naturalized the legal way.
Asked if the man, whose identity Steidl would not reveal, should have voted that fateful election day in November 2004, she replied: "No, because he's not a citizen of the U.S., and you have to be a citizen of the U.S. to vote!"
Debbie Steidl is Putnam County's administrator of elections, on the job just a year-and-a-half now. Steidl is refusing to keep quiet about the newly revealed case, she has notified, in writing homeland security; the TBI; office of the district attorney general; and the state election commission.
Her letter was prompted by this mystery man's return to her office right around primary election time last week, to offer a confession about his casting a ballot in '04, and now his quest to undo it. The immigrant, according to Steidl, came armed with a letter from the Department of Homeland Security, headquartered in Memphis. The letter instructed Steidl to 'purge' the man from the Putnam County voter registration rolls.
"If he doesn't get purged, he can't become a citizen," Steidl told NewsChannel 5, in an exclusive interview Tuesday afternoon.
She confirmed the man, by his own admission, had managed to get himself a social security number; two forms of identification, required to cast a ballot; he was able to register to vote, said Steidl; and he perjured himself, according to Steidl, admitting in writing that he was a U.S. citizen, before successfully voting six years ago.
Steidl seemed frustrated by, not only the federal government's apparent willingness to assist this illegal immigrant, but by the election commission's inability to demand proof that anyone is a legal, U.S. citizen.
"He is being enabled," Steidl said. "And that's what bothered me more than anything!"
Even in defense of the previous election headquarters' administration, Steidl was quick to point out: "And there was nothing they could do! They did exactly what they were supposed to do."
Although Steidl did inform the State, in writing, about the man's success breaking through election security measures, NewsChannel 5 informed one state election commission member of the development after a meeting on Tuesday afternoon.
"We would investigate it," reassured Beth Henry Roberts, the deputy election coordinator. "That would be an illegal activity, and that would be something that we would have to refer to the D.A. (district attorney), based upon whatever information and evidence we gather."
Steidl's whistleblowing attempts hit yet another brickwall: the Honorable Randy York, district attorney general, told her the statute of limitations had run out on prosecuting the illegal immigrant, and illegal voter, on any level.