Mandating photo identification for voting is just one part of a reshaping of Tennessee election laws by the Legislature’s Republican majority that also includes resolution of a three-year dispute over installing new voting machines statewide.
In a compromise last week, Republicans backed off of bills to repeal outright the Voter Confidence Act of 2008, which mandated use of $37 million in federal funds to place machines providing a paper trail for ballots in all 95 Tennessee counties.
The compromise, approved as an amendment to SB1202 by the Senate State and Local Government Committee, basically allows each county election commission to decide when, and if, current machines will be replaced. State Election Coordinator Mark Goins said the federal funding can be held for use as needed – perhaps for the next 10 years.
Dick Williams, chairman of Common Cause in Tennessee and longtime advocate of paper trail ballots, called the move “a friendly amendment to an unfriendly bill by a friendly sponsor,” the latter being Sen. Ken Yager, R-Harriman. “At least the spirit of the law (Voter Confidence Act) is still alive,” said Yager, who worked out the compromise with Rep. Bill Dunn, R-Knoxville, who is House sponsor of the bill.