Verified Voting Blog: Hurry Up and Wait: Tennessee Senate Delays, Weakens Voter Confidence Act in the Opening Hours of the 2010 Session

On the basis of several highly questionable assumptions, the Tennessee General Assembly has voted to delay implementation of paper ballot voting until 2012, and to eliminate the Tennessee Voter Confidence Act’s provision for routine hand-counted audits of computer vote tallies. On Tuesday, the Tennessee Senate passed House Bill 614 on a vote of 22-10. The Senate’s passage of House Bill 614 was strongly influenced by a perception that there are no machines available that meet the law’s requirements. The Voter Confidence Act requires optical scan systems to be certified by the U.S. Election Assistance Commission to “the applicable voluntary voting system guidelines.” In November, Chancellor Russell Perkins of the Davidson County Chancery Court determined that the Voter Confidence Act allows the State to purchase voting systems certified by the EAC to either 2002 or 2005 standards. The 2002 standards are deemed by Section 222(e) of the Help America Vote Act to be first set of voluntary voting system guidelines.

Voting technology expert Dr. Douglas Jones, who was recently named to the EAC’s Technical Guidelines Development Committee, testified to the court that some voting systems certified to the 2002 standard could be updated to the 2005 standard with a simple software patch. The State of New York certified an updated version of one of the 2002-certified systems, made by Election Systems and Software, to the 2005 guidelines on December 15, 2009. One day after the Senate vote, the U.S. Election Assistance Commission certified a complete paper ballot voting system to all of the 2005 federal guidelines.It is unfortunate that the vote occurred when it appears that not all Senators had access to the facts.