GOP senators kill Democratic push for paper ballot trail in TN voting

Republican state senators have spurned a Democratic proposal to require a paper receipt for all votes cast in Tennessee elections so there would be a paper trail to follow in case electronic voting machines are hacked, reports WPLN.

The bill (SB2090) by Senate Democratic Caucus Chairman Jeff Yarbro of Nashville failed to get a seconding motion when it came up Tuesday in the Senate State and Local Government Committee.

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.

Further from The Tennessean:

On Friday, U.S. Rep. Jim Cooper, D-Nashville, told reporters that warnings from the national intelligence community point to a “serious threat” to the nation’s voting system, and immediate changes are needed in Tennessee to avoid a compromised 2018 election cycle.

He referenced comments from top intelligence chiefs at a U.S. Senate Intelligence Committee meeting earlier in the week and called for a paper ballot back-up system to electronic voting machines paid for by $28 million in state-held federal funds.

…Yarbro, D-Nashville, expressed frustrations that his own bill calling for paper ballots stalled.

…”It’s disturbing the Senate appears uninterested in having a conversation about a paper trail, which is pretty essential to the integrity of our elections in our democracy,” he said. “There’s bipartisan consensus in Washington that our elections are under attack by foreign governments with sophistication. It is baffling there is not greater concern from the other side of the aisle on this issue.”

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