The Tennessee Senate is scheduled to vote today on whether to postpone implementation of voter verifiable paper ballots for Tennessee elections. SB872 weakens and delays the Tennessee Voter Confidence Act which was passed last year to require paper ballots for all Tennessee elections in time for 2010.
In a joint press release, Common Cause, Gathering to Save Our Democracy, the Tennessee League of Women Voters, VerifiedVoting.org, Voter Action, and Voters Unite.org call for state lawmakers to reject legislation delaying or weakening the Tennessee Voter Confidence Act. Full press release after the jump...
Civic Organizations Urge Lawmakers to Follow Through on Trustworthy Voting Systems
A coalition of civic organizations is urging the Tennessee General Assembly to stop legislation that would delay the state's move toward verifiable elections. Common Cause, Gathering to Save Our Democracy, the Tennessee League of Women Voters, and the national organizations VerifiedVoting.org, Voter Action, and Voters Unite.org call for state lawmakers to reject House Bill 614 and Senate Bill 872. The full Senate may vote on SB 872 on Monday.
The two bills would either delay implementation of the Tennessee Voter Confidence Act (TVCA), or delete key provisions of the law. The TVCA requires that by 2010, requires all votes be cast in Tennessee elections be cast on paper ballots marked by the voter. The ballots will be read and counted by scanning machines, and after the election, every county will conduct a hand-counted audit of a random sample of precincts to verify the scanners' tallies.
The TVCA was enacted last year after the Tennessee Advisory Commission in Intergovernmental Relations (TACIR) recommended that the state adopt voting technology with a reliable, independent paper record of every vote, and recommended that election officials use those records to conduct routine hand-counted audits of electronic vote tallies. (1)
"The Assembly passed the Voter Confidence Act in order to provide voters with verifiable ballots and election results we can trust," said Bernie Ellis of the citizen group Gathering to Save Our Democracy. "There is no legitimate reason not to implement this law on schedule," said Ellis.
The state has sufficient federal funds on hand to pay for the law’s shift to better equipment. All but two counties in Tennessee now use purely electronic voting machines. In recent years, paperless electronic voting systems have been strongly criticized by leading computer scientists. The TACIR report noted that if Tennessee's electronic voting machines store votes incorrectly because of malfunction or fraud, recounts are "useless." (2)
Tennessee's law is part of a nationwide trend toward paper ballot voting systems. In the 2008 general election, the percentage of votes cast on paper ballots rose significantly, accounting for almost 60% of the total. A majority of the states also now have a provision for post-election hand audits. The TVCA requires voter-marked paper ballots rather than cash-register type “paper trail” printouts, because paper ballots are more durable, and because many voters fail to check secondary printouts. Since 2006, no states have added paper-trail printers to electronic voting machines.
"Everything depends on the ability of the citizenry to have that confidence their votes are being counted accurately. It's unconscionable to delay," said VerifiedVoting.org president Pamela Smith.
(1)"Trust But Verify," the 2007 TACIR Staff Report.
(2) 2TACIR report, page 21.
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