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Tennessee Passes Paper Ballot Legislation PDF  | Print |  Email
By Warren Stewart, Verified Voting Foundation   
May 18, 2008
Tennessee Voter Confidence Act Will Also Establish Random Post-Election Audits and Prohibit the Use of Wireless Devices in Voting Systems

On May 15, the Tennessee State Senate unanimously passed SB 1363 The Tennessee Voter Confidence Act, a sweeping reform of the state’s voting technology. Minor differences between the Senate bill and the House companion HB 1256, passed earlier in the week, are expected to be easily resolved and the bill sent to Gov. Phil Bredesen for his signature next week. The overwhelming support for the bill resulted from the steadfast efforts of state and national voting advocates and a report from the Tennessee Advisory Commission on Intergovernmental Relations (TACIR) that recommended many of the measures in the legislation.

The bill would require that any voting system purchased and deployed in the state after January 1, 2009 use precinct-based optical scanners. The bill as amended in the Senate would use Federal funding provided to the state as a result of the Help America Vote Act (HAVA) to fund the replacement of currently deployed direct recording electronic (DRE) voting systems. The bill explicitly calls for counties to purchase ballot-marking devices to meet the Federal requirement to provide voters with disabilities a means of voting privately and independently.

In addition to moving the state toward voter marked paper ballot systems, the bill will also require each county election commission, for each election, to conduct mandatory hand count audits of at least 3% of the voter marked paper ballots of at least the top race in the federal, state, county, or municipal election, if on the ballot. This bill details the procedures for the audits, including the random selection of precincts, the timing of the audits, and the public announcement of the results of the audit, and provides for additional hand count audits when the results of the first audit show a variance of more than 1 percent between the hand count and the unofficial machine vote count to resolve any concerns and ensure the accuracy of the results.
Tennessee: Laptop Theft May Deter Voters PDF  | Print |  Email
By Colby Sledge, Tennesseean staff writer   
January 02, 2008

Political watchdogs fear possible breach may cause public to cast doubt, not ballots


The theft of computers containing personal information of all registered Davidson County voters could hurt voter turnout in upcoming elections, a political watchdog group says.


Laptop computers stolen from the Davidson County Election Commission over the Christmas holiday may contain voters' Social Security numbers along with other personal information, potentially putting more than 337,000 registered Davidson County voters at risk of identity theft.


That could persuade potential voters in the upcoming presidential primaries to avoid the process altogether, according to Deborah Narrigan, a member of the watchdog group Common Cause Tennessee.


"If you can't trust that the commission can safely handle your Social Security number, it would raise doubts for a lot of people about its ability to secure other parts of the voting process," Narrigan said.


Read the Entire Article at the Nashville Tennessean 

"Trust, But Verify": Tennessee Advisory Commission Issues Voting System Report PDF  | Print |  Email
September 27, 2007

Download the TACIR Report


The Tennessee Advisory Commission on Intergovernmental Relations (TACIR) is releasing an interim report on their thorough study of voting systems and that they will present at a hearing in Tennessee today. TACIR’s report presents a range of recommendations for improving the security and reliability of its voting systems, shown in context of the current state of systems nationally. Its report includes a discussion of many of the significant recent developments that have affected the debate about voting technology, notably the ground-breaking California “Top to Bottom Review” reports, the most comprehensive study of voting systems of its kind. Ohio is embarking upon a similar review of their state’s voting systems, and Alaska is considering such a review. strongly endorses many of the Commission’s recommendations, which closely parallel positions that we have advocated since our inception. Key among those is that without voter-verified paper ballots, it is not practical to provide reasonable assurance of the integrity of electronic voting systems by any combination of design review, inspection, testing, logical analysis, or control of the system development process.

Recognizing that the paperless DREs used in 93 of Tennessee’s 95 counties “allow no check on the electronically-generated count other than the same machines and software to recount the same electronically recorded votes,” the Commission appears to support the adoption of a paper ballot optical scan voting system in conjunction with ballot marking devices, with which we agree strongly. Optical scan balloting systems are reliable and cost-effective, and with ballot-markers, more accessible than most DRE systems.

The Commission correctly notes that a paper ballot would facilitate another of their recommendations: mandatory post election audits. Such audits are routinely conducted in a number of other states and are neither difficult nor expensive to do; the benefits accrued in voter confidence and security are immeasurably greater than any costs involved. 

Tennessee: Democrats Go To Court To Keep Polls Open Late PDF  | Print |  Email
By The Tennesseean   
November 07, 2006

Voting Equipment: Microvote Infinity, Hart Intercivic eSlate and Diebold TSx touchscreen voting machines


Lawyers with the Tennessee Democratic Party will file suit early this afternoon asking that voting hours be extended due to reports of infrastructure problems, a party spokesman said.

The party has received reports that some precincts lacked enough voting machines, voting machines that are not working, long lines and delays in the openings of polling paces, said the spokesman Mark Brown. Brown said he did not yet know which court party lawyers would file suit in, but said it would be in Davidson County at about 1:30 p.m.

Lawyers had not yet decided whether they would ask that all polls remain open later or ask only that polls in certain regions of the state be open later. Polls are now scheduled to close across the state at 7 p.m. Central Standard Time in Middle and West Tennessee, and 8 p.m. in East Tennessee.

Read the Entire Article at The Tenesseean

Tennessee: Documented Election Law and Security Violations in Shelby County PDF  | Print |  Email
By Joe Irrera   
October 28, 2006
Shelby County’s conduct of the August primary election may have violated basic election system security procedures. Documents released earlier this month reveal multiple breaches of security and cast doubt on the legality of the election process.

As part of a lawsuit alleging illegal voting brought by four unsuccessful candidates for clerk positions, election officials’ declarations and discovery documents call into question the election results. Although their case was dismissed October 5, Shep Wilbun, Sondra Becton, Vernon Johnson and Otis Jackson have performed a valuable service. Jim March, a computer professional who examined the county’s Diebold voting systems as part of this legal case, calls his findings “some of the most irregular procedures in America today. Nobody else in the Tennessee elections process did their jobs except for these four candidates and a handful of citizen supporters and researchers.” 
Tennessee: Voting Machine Failures And Long Ballots Create Delays And Uncertainty PDF  | Print |  Email
By Warren Stewart, VoteTrustUSA   
August 07, 2006
The Nashville Tennessean is reporting that voting machine foul-ups across the state during the primary election last Thursday are sparking concerns that problems may not be worked out by the general election in November. The combination of voting machine problems and the longest ballot in state history resulted in long lines at polling places in many counties. Many voters chose the option of voting on paper ballots to avoid the lines.

Several races are still undecided in Williamson County, where election officials reportedly got two different vote totals and are trying to reconcile them for a final count. Williamson election registrar Ann Beard said results that were reported at 9:09 p.m. Thursday did not match results reported at 2 a.m. Friday. "It's more than likely a problem with the software or human error," Beard said.

One of the candidates whose election is in question, County Commissioner Mary Mills, when faced with the two different voters counts commented "I thought I'd won, then this morning it doesn't look like that. I want to be the one that wins, but if I don't there's nothing I can do about it."

Deborah Narrigan, with the Tennessee election integrity organization called Gathering to Save our Democracy observed "It's a real problem. There's no paper trail, no paper ballot for voters to look at. I don't know if there are any problems or mistakes. No one will ever know. I'm concerned about future elections. Voters need confidence their votes will be counted."

State election director and Election Center board member Brook Thompson, a staunch advocate for electronic voting technology was quick to downplay the problems. "We were faced with the longest ballot in state history because of the eight-year judicial cycle," said Thompson. "I know we just put new voting equipment in a lot of our counties and that may have added a little bit to it. It didn't help that the first election we're using a lot of this new voting equipment is the biggest election in Tennessee state history. That's bad luck."

Tennessee: Waiting For "The Perfect Storm" On Primary Day PDF  | Print |  Email
By Warren Stewart, VoteTrustUSA   
August 03, 2006
"We haven't been blindsided by this; people have been talking about this possibly for a long time."

The Tennessee primary election is receiving considerable scrutiny from government, media, and election watchdogs. It’s no surprise, given the combination of voting technology, state ballot regulations, unfamiliar races such as the Charter Commission for Memphis voters to consider, and the longest-ever ballot in state history that have combined to make this election what one local editorial described as “A Perfect Storm”. Shelby County (Memphis) is receiving particularly close attention.

The Justice Department has announced that it will monitor the federal and state primary and local general elections in Shelby County, watching and recording activities during voting hours at various polling locations in the city to ensure compliance with the Voting Rights Act. A Civil Rights Division attorney will coordinate the federal activities and maintain contact with local election officials.

In a news wire article, Memphis attorney Richard Fields said the monitors most likely are not coming to Memphis because of any anticipated illegal activity, and he didn't consider the announcement significant. "They normally do this where some issues have been raised," he said. Fields noted that Thursday's long ballot and the shortage of machines probably will result in problems.

In a recent Daily Voting News, John Gideon observed “The normal primary turnout in Shelby Co. is right at 30%. That means that close to 110,000 voters will attempt to vote on 1300 Diebold TSx voting machines on an extremely long ballot that has as many as 141 races on it. If each voter takes only 10 minutes every voter can vote in a normal 14 hour day. If the voters average 15 minutes, the election day will stretch into 20 hours. That, of course, assumes that no voters walk away because of long lines and that no voting machines break down during the day. Of course, if the county used precinct based optical scan machines voters could mark their ballots while sitting at desks or on the floor and there would be no long lines and if machines broke down ballot boxes could be used.”
Tennessee: A Vote That Can Be Verified PDF  | Print |  Email
By The Nashville Tennessean   
March 30, 2006
The following editorial was published in the Nashville Tennessean on March 30, 2006.

Many Tennessee counties are about to spend millions of dollars to purchase voting equipment. Officials have a duty to ensure that the new machines will be reliable.


The 2002 Help America Vote Act, or HAVA, requires that all states address any problems with voting equipment, voter rolls and access to voters with disabilities by this year's election. With the primary in August, that means the Tennessee counties that are replacing voting machines have a short timetable to select equipment, install it and train their election workers. The state has received $55 million in federal funds to update voting equipment and procedures.


A grass-roots group Safe Vote Tennessee is urging counties to purchase equipment using Voter Verifiable Paper Ballots, or VVPB, instead of touch-screen machines. These electronic machines allow the voter to manually mark a ballot that is then read by an optical scanner.


Several states have passed laws requiring voting equipment that produces a paper record. In Tennessee Rep. Gary Moore and Sen. Joe Haynes are sponsoring a bill that would impose a similar requirement. The Commission on Federal Election Reform, chaired by former President Jimmy Carter and former Secretary of State James Baker, recommended that Congress pass a law requiring voter-verifiable paper audit trails on all electronic voting machines.


State Election Coordinator Brook Thompson says that touch-screen voting machines are reliable. In most cases, that's probably true. Yet when a technology glitch does occur with computerized voting equipment, it's a lulu. In an election in Texas this month, computerized equipment lost 100,000 votes of some 150,000 cast.


The botched 2000 president election and the subsequent passage of HAVA forced this nation and its experts in voting technology into a thorough search for the voting equipment that was the most reliable. The growing consensus among those experts is that equipment that produces a verifiable paper trail is the safest way to go. Given the stakes, why wouldn't Tennessee go with the system with the least possibility of mistakes and the means to audit votes if a problem does occur?
Tennessee: Choosing Trustworthy and Reliable Voting Systems PDF  | Print |  Email
By Robert Tuke, Chairman, Tennessee Democratic Party   
October 26, 2005
Editor's note - This letter was sent recently to Democratic Representatives on County Election Commissions.

You are in the process of making decisions that are vitally important to the safety, security and trustworthiness of our voting process in Tennessee. I know you want to be sure that our future elections here in Tennessee will remain free from the problems that have occurred too often with non-verifiable, insecure and expensive electronic voting systems in several states.

For the past several years, the problems with direct record electronic (DRE) voting systems have been well documented. These expensive voting systems have encountered multiple problems that, through accident or by design, have impacted the conduct of elections in several states around the country. These voting machines have been studied by computer scientists at many universities, and these researchers have recommended against using these machines because they frequently malfunction and their secret operating software can be easily tampered with without detection by election officials.
Tennessee: Seven Point Plan for Election Reform PDF  | Print |  Email
By Bernie Ellis, Gathering to Save Our Democracy   
October 25, 2005
Gathering to Save Our Democracy, has been meeting with county election commissions and administrators for the past several months to encourage them to maintain or choose voting systems that provide a voter-verified paper ballot that can be recounted for audit and assessment purposes.
Between 12-15 counties already have optical scan voting systems that start with a paper ballot and these systems are acceptable for our purposes. Likewise, 20 counties now use punch-card voting systems that the state Coordinator of Elections, Brook Thompson, is attempting to do away with, but which those counties want to maintain. We are supporting those counties in their efforts to keep their punch-card voting systems, which the Help America Vote Act (HAVA) allows them to keep.
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