Amendment to allow use of available machines undermined by SOS
Nashville — More than $25 million in federal funding to help implement the ”Tennessee Voter Confidence Act” is sitting idle because of an effort by the secretary of state to stall implementation of a paper trail in the 2010 elections, House Democratic Leader Gary Odom said Thursday.
“This money was provided by Congress to help the states provide for fair elections and to give coordinators the ability to determine that vote counts are correct beyond the shadow of a doubt,” Odom said. “Why there is such opposition to implementing this act is beyond me.”
Secretary of State Tre Hargett (R) said in a statement issued Tuesday that “the act is very specific” in requiring the state to use machines set to 2005 standards set by the federal Election Assistance Commission.
“This is simply not true. Nowhere in the federal act does it say we must use 2005 standards. It says we must use certified standards. The certification of 2005 standards does not nullify the 2002 standards, which will be available for next year’s elections. Hargett has interpreted the act to mean that 2002 machines are not acceptable to be used.”
“To clear up any ambiguity in the current law I proposed an amendment that would make it clear that machines certified to 2002 standards could be used in the state of Tennessee. Hargett fought that amendment every step of the way,” Odom said. “It’s very disingenuous of him to now complain that he can’t implement this act.”
“I believe Tennesseans deserve the confidence that their vote is counted and is counted accurately.”
Statement on implementation of Voter Confidence Act By House Democratic Leader Gary Odom
In 2008 the Tenn. General Assembly passed the Voter Confidence Act. This legislation had broad bipartisan support and its primary purpose was to ensure that elections in Tenn. would be conducted with a system of voting machines, referred to as optical scanners, which provide a paper trail. According to a Tennessee Advisory Commission on Intergovernmental Relations study on the subject, the paper trail is essential to reassure voters that their vote is being counted accurately and to provide a means to audit the machines or recount votes in an election.
Secretary Hargett has stated that the Act is very specific and requires the state to use machines certified to 2005 standards. In fact, the Act does not specify 2005 machines. It says that we shall use machines certified by the federal Election Assistance Commission.
Recently, the Secretary of State issued a statement to the press suggesting that he cannot fulfill his obligations under the 2008 Voter Confidence Act. It is his incorrect interpretation that we must use machines certified to 2005 standards. To clear up any ambiguities that Secretary Hargett wrongly perceived, Senator Herron and I introduced an amendment that would have explicitly allowed machines certified to 2002 standards or better. Secretary Hargett fought this amendment every step of the way.
The fact is, Secretary Hargett does not want to implement this Act. He had legislation introduced in the past legislative session to repeal the Act. Ultimately the bill was amended to delay implementation of the ACT until following the 2010 elections. The legislation eventually stalled in the Senate.
Under current law Secretary Hargett is required to implement a verifiable voting system in the state of Tennessee. The Election Assistance Commission will approve within the next few weeks two different Scanners that could be available for use in Tenn.’s 2010 Elections.
I call on Secretary Hargett to quit dragging his feet and implement this system in order to assure that votes are counted accurately. Tennesseans deserve the confidence that their votes are counted and counted accurately.