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Thu, Nov 27, 2014

State senate delays election reform act

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In its first act this session, Tennessee’s General Assembly voted Tuesday to delay the Tennessee Voter Confidence Act until 2012.

In a party line vote, Senate Republicans voted to repeal the act, which would have required paper verified voting machines in all 95 counties and funded the transition from touch screen voting machines to optical scan voting machines.

“The current recession has caused this body to make painful cuts to our state budget. Our counties are no different. They simply cannot afford additional mandated cost," bill sponsor Sen. Bill Ketron (R-Murfreesboro) said.

The Rutherford County Democrats don’t agree with Ketron’s stance though and feel the state can’t afford to have unverifiable elections.

“Tennessee currently uses machines that have no paper record and cannot offer a recount,” Rutherford County Democratic Party Chairman Jonathon Fagan said. “The new paper ballot machines are paid for by funds already allotted to Tennessee by the federal government. Paper ballots ensure there is an accurate record of votes if anything is questionable.”

Ketron said the issue is not political but “common sense.”

Rutherford County Elections Administrator Hooper Penuel said he was concerned about the act because no currently manufactured voting machines meet the standards set forth in it.

And with the uncertainty around the bill Rutherford County may not have time to buy machine by the November deadline.

But really the paper ballots are the issue.

As written, the act requires the county to buy and store enough blank paper ballots for every voter in the county. Penuel said he has seen estimates between 20 cents and 60 cents per blank paper ballot.

But Penuel hopes to switch to a system called “Ballot on Demand”, which prints ballots that are precinct and election specific. The system could save the county money and storage space.

Michelle Willard can be contacted at 615-869-0816 or mwillard@murfreesboropost.com.
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