Lawmakers should implement higher voting standard

The state legislature is moving toward the repeal of the 2008 Voter Confidence Act, which requires more secure, optical scan voting machines to be used across the state.
 Sen. Reginald Tate
The state legislature is moving toward the repeal of the 2008 Voter Confidence Act, which requires more secure, optical scan voting machines to be used across the state. These machines include a verifiable paper trail to serve as a check against mistakes and potential fraud, something that more than 30 states already have in place. A repeal of the Voter Confidence Act would be a devastating blow to secure elections in our state, and would further undermine the already fragile trust among Memphis voters in our current system.

Everyone is well aware of the problems we faced in the primaries in August, when thousands of voters were turned away at the polls because the wrong electronic poll book was loaded into the machines. Those electronic books are used instead of paper books, which would have helped ensure that the correct data was loaded. Even when the correct poll book was loaded, there were more votes cast than voters, a discrepancy that no one has been able to fully explain. Paper ballots would have been the easiest and most secure way to check votes against the electronic system, and could have prevented the confusion, accusations and disappointment that ensued.

Our current system is riddled with security holes and potential for error. The machines can be hacked at the factory, during transport, or the night before the election. They can be manipulated during and after the election with simple tools like paper clips and telephone cords. One recent university report even described our machines as “the least secure voting system” in the country.

These are the same voting machines that an Arkansas mayor discovered didn’t register a single vote for him – not even his own. In Cleveland, Ohio, poll workers had to use a paper trail to correct three-fourths of the ballots cast on machines just like ours. In Texas, the machines added 100,000 extra votes after a malfunction. We have an obligation to our citizens to provide the most secure voting system possible. Democracy is built on the public’s trust of secure, honest elections that reflect the will of the people. Our current machines do not uphold that trust.

Opponents to the Voter Confidence Act say that local governments cannot bear the burden of implementing the more secure, optical scan ballot machines. In truth, Tennessee received $52 million in federal money eight years ago for the sole purpose of making our elections more secure. Such money should be immediately put toward replacing our vulnerable voting machines with more reliable machines that create a verifiable paper trail in the case of error or questions.

The human nature of voting will never be fully eliminated. We can, however, close the open door that our current machines provide to anyone looking to influence, manipulate or downright steal an election. Voters deserve a voting system they can believe in. Implementing the Voter Confidence Act would create that system.

(Senator Reginald Tate represents portions of Memphis and Shelby County. Contact him at This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it. or (615) 741-2509 or 320 War Memorial Building, Nashville, TN 37243-0033.)

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