Tennessee Lawmakers Reject Plan To Require Paper Trail For Voting | Nashville Public Radio

Tennessee Lawmakers Reject Plan To Require Paper Trail For Voting

Feb 20, 2018

Tennessee lawmakers have rejected a measure that would've required a paper receipt for all ballots cast in the state.

In a meeting Tuesday of the Senate's State and Local Government Committee, legislators voted down a bill intended to create a paper trail for auditors to follow in the event electronic voting machines are hacked.

The measure had been opposed by state election officials, who say paper receipts are an unnecessary expense. Machines that spit out paper receipts would have cost Tennessee election commissions about $9.5 million up front, and they would have cost millions more to operate.

Mark Goins, the state's coordinator of elections, says there's also not much evidence that voting machines are in danger of being hacked.

"The bill would have required nearly 90-percent of Tennessee counties to spend millions in upfront and recurring costs to purchase new voting systems with no clear way to pay for it," Goins said in a prepared statement. "Just this weekend the U.S. Department of Homeland Security confirmed there is no evidence to suggest vote tallying has been tampered with in any state."

Lawmakers have been split on the issue largely along party lines. Democrats say paper receipts could serve as a backup count if there were suspicions that vote tallies had been altered. That would give voters more confidence in election results. They also note that Tennessee still has $29 million in unspent funds from the Help America Vote Act, the 2002 federal law that called on states to upgrade their voting systems.

But Republicans point out that voting machines aren't connected to the internet, so they argue widespread hacking would be difficult — if not impossible — to pull off without detection. That task becomes even harder if voting machines are not standardized, as is the case currently in Tennessee.

Goins says online trolls are a bigger danger.

"The real issue is misinformation being spread through fake social media accounts which erode voter confidence in the entire election process."