An elections advocacy group urged a Sixth Circuit panel Tuesday to reinstate its case against the Tennessee Election Commission based on claims that one county’s electronic voting machines and software have created an inherently insecure system. Shelby County Advocates for Valid Elections, or SAVE, and several individual voters sued Tennessee Secretary of State Tre Hargett, the state’s election commission and the Shelby County Election Commission five days before early voting began in Shelby County for the November 2018 election. SAVE alleged the AccuVote-TSx R7 direct-recording electronic voting machines and Diebold GEMS voting software utilized by Shelby County fail to meet statutory requirements because they do not create a “voter verified paper audit trail,” and store votes solely on removable memory cards. The group’s complaint alleged election results are subject to manipulation because of their digital-only nature, which could result in the disenfranchisement of voters in the county with the state’s largest black population.Full Article: Tennessee Voting Machines Challenged at Sixth Circuit.
Articles about voting issues in Tennessee.
Tennessee: Likely no paper trail for voting in Memphis on Super Tuesday | Jonathan Mattise/Associated Press
Tennessee’s largest county probably won’t have new voting machines that create a voter-verifiable paper trail in place for the presidential primary election on March 3, an attorney for the state said Tuesday. Janet Kleinfelter of the Tennessee attorney general’s office discussed the timeline to implement the new machines in Memphis-anchored Shelby County during a federal appellate court hearing Tuesday. The hearing involved a lawsuit that has challenged the security of Shelby County’s voting machines. Kleinfelter said the machines will be in place by August, when state and federal primaries are held. Previously, Shelby County Elections Administrator Linda Phillips’ office said the goal was to start using the machines in the Super Tuesday elections. Shelby County commissioners have approved funding for the machines, which are expected to cost $10 million to $12 million. The county is now going through the procurement process, Kleinfelter said.Full Article: Likely no paper trail for voting in Memphis on Super Tuesday.
Tennessee: Federal judge dismisses voting security lawsuit in Tennessee | Adrian Sainz/Associated Press
A federal judge dismissed a lawsuit Friday challenging the security of voting machines in Tennessee’s largest county and calling for a switch to a handwritten ballot and a voter-verifiable paper trial. U.S. District Judge Thomas Parker ruled that the lawsuit filed by a group of Shelby County voters in October 2018 failed to show that any harm has come to the plaintiffs and that they have no standing to bring the suit. Attorney Carol Chumney sued on claims that the outdated touchscreen voting machines used by Shelby County are not secure because they do not produce a voter-verifiable paper trail, and security checks and other safeguards are needed to protect the system from outside manipulation. Chumney wanted the county election commission to let outside experts examine its election management software and report any evidence of hacking, possible editing of votes cast or unauthorized software to the Tennessee Bureau of Investigation. The suit questioned the security and reliability of the voting machines and its software, provided by vendor Election Systems & Software. Advocates claim the software is obsolete and presents a risk to the election system. The suit also questioned the security of memory cards, computers, and modems used by the county. The lawsuit asked that the county replace its entire elections system ahead of this October’s municipal elections in Memphis with an optical scan system that uses hand-marked paper ballots. Chumney also asked that officials require Election Systems & Software to install advanced security sensors on their system and ask the U.S. Department of Homeland Security to perform risk and vulnerability assessments on electronic voting systems.Full Article: Federal judge dismisses voting security lawsuit in Tennessee - Plainview Daily Herald.
Tennessee: Last of 2018 election lawsuits lingers with call for forensic audit of voting machines | Bill Dries/The Daily Memphian
The last lawsuit from a flurry of lawsuits filed over the conduct of 2018 elections in Shelby County still has some trace of life in it. The attorney for and members of the group SAVE – Shelby Advocates for Valid Elections – called Monday, outside of their pending court case, for a forensic audit of the touch-screen voting machines to be used in the Oct. 3 Memphis elections. The call comes just a few days ahead of Friday’s start of early voting across the city. “There needs to be some protection to the current election system we have for this next election,” said former state Representative and Shelby County Schools board member Mike Kernell. “These machines are in bad shape and we’ve recommended some new procedures.” Attorney Carol Chumney, representing SAVE in the federal lawsuit filed against county and state election officials in 2018, called specifically for forensic audits before and after the city elections.Full Article: Last of 2018 election lawsuits lingers with call for forensic audit of voting machines - The Daily Memphian.
As advocates push nationally for states to increase voting security, Tennessee election officials who are trying to win approval for voting machines that produce a paper record have hit a roadblock. A proposal by the state Election Commission for all future voting machines to be capable of producing some sort of paper trail was halted when a surprise legal opinion emerged from the GOP-controlled Legislature’s legal team. The opinion, written on behalf of state Republican Sen. Ken Yager, contests the commission’s process on how it certifies voting machines. Fallout from the opinion has once again tempered attempts to make sweeping changes to Tennessee’s voting systems, which Republican leaders have resisted: They point not only to the importance of allowing local experts decide what is best but also to the significant expense of replacing voting machines statewide. “When it comes to elections, we need to do it the right way or we’ll be buying ourselves a lot of headaches,” Yager said in a Friday phone interview. Democrats have voiced concerns about the lack of paper trail requirements, as have cybersecurity experts, who have criticized Tennessee as one of 12 states that does not require electronic voting machines to print out hand-marked paper ballots. That can leave election results vulnerable to untraceable manipulation by hackers.Full Article: Tennessee hits roadblock requiring paper trail voting | National | dailyjournalonline.com.
Tennessee: Nashville elections: New voting machines to be used for August races | Andrew Wigdor/Nashville Tennessean
Nashville will get new voting machines for the upcoming Aug. 1 election in order to cut down on unintentional mistakes by voters. The most notable change with the new machines is a two-step paper ballot system. Voters are provided with a blank “ballot card” by an polling official that voters then insert into a new “ballot marking device.” Once the card is inserted, the voter selects their choices, and the machine prints out the ballot, now marked with the voter’s choices. The voter then inserts the ballot into a second machine, where the votes are scanned. If voters make a mistake, they are able to look at their ballot before inserting it into the second machine and decide whether they need to make a change. Once the ballot is inserted and scanned into the second machine, a vote is final.Full Article: Nashville elections: New voting machines to be used for August races.
Tennessee: Official: No funds means Shelby County’s old voting machines to be used in 2020 | Katherine Burgess /Commercial Appeal
Unless funding for new voting machines is included in the capital improvements budget for fiscal year 2020, voters in Shelby County will continue using antiquated machines through the 2020 presidential elections, said Linda Phillips, administrator of elections. Phillips spoke with the Shelby County Board of Commissioners a day after Shelby County Mayor Lee Harris announced that he is withholding $5 million that would have gone for new machines from his proposed budget until a conversation can be had regarding voter registration, access to the vote and the delivery of timely and accurate results. “From when I started in 2011 to even before when I started — when machines were young, when machines were old — almost every election I have been observing has been a performance disaster. At some point, somebody’s got to be held accountable,” Harris said. “Although my means is not perfect, this is not the right lever, I’ve got to do what I’ve got to do, and that’s the lever in front of me.”Full Article: Official: No funds means Shelby County's old voting machines to be used in 2020.
Amid growing national concerns about election security, Tennessee’s three largest counties plan to begin using voting machines that produce a verifiable paper trail in time for the presidential primaries in March 2020, whether the Republican-led state requires it or not. Tennessee is one of only 14 states without a statutory requirement of a paper record of all ballots — regarded by most election security experts as crucial to ensuring accurate vote-counting. But election officials in the three Tennessee counties switching to paper-trail machines say they aren’t worried about the paperless technology. bRather, they just want to be sure voters trust the process. “Now, you’ve got an issue of voter confidence and public perception, factors which cannot be ignored, at least by election commissions,” said Elections Administrator Clifford Rodgers in Knox County, one of the Tennessee local governments looking to switch. He said he’s doing so “reluctantly” and predicted problems with printers and scanners. The others are Shelby County, anchored by Memphis, and Davidson County, encompassed by Nashville. Knox, Shelby and Davidson account for 1.3 million of Tennessee’s 4.16 million registered voters.Full Article: Tennessee counties eye vote paper trail; state stays neutral - StarTribune.com.
Tennessee: Republicans, ACLU join forces to help more felons regain right to vote | Nashville Tennessean
Two Republican lawmakers, with the backing of the American Civil Liberties Union, are setting out to make it simpler for people with felony convictions to regain their right to vote, a process more arduous in Tennessee than in most states. Tennessee’s rights restoration laws are among the strictest in the country. It is one of 12 states that requires individuals with felony convictions to complete multiple steps beyond serving their sentence in order to have their voting rights restored, and is the only state requiring the payment of outstanding child support obligations in order to do so.Full Article: Tennessee Republican bill promotes voting rights for felons.
Tennessee lawmakers are considering a move to make it easier for some felons to get their voting rights restored. The legislation would lift the Republican-led state’s unique requirement for formerly incarcerated individuals to be up-to-date on child support before restoration of voting rights, in addition to other court fines and restitution. It would also aim to simplify the bureaucratic process for those people to get their rights back once they’re out of prison and off parole and probation. The legislation has made partners of the American Civil Liberties Union of Tennessee and Americans for Prosperity, who headlined a news event Wednesday touting the bill. Tori Venable, state director of Americans for Prosperity, said the legislation offers common ground for her group, at times perceived as right-leaning, and the ACLU, sometimes thought of as left-leaning.Full Article: Tennessee Considers Easing Felon Voting Rights Restoration | Tennessee News | US News.
Two Tennessee state lawmakers on Wednesday introduced bills to restore the voting rights of people with felony convictions after they serve their sentences. State Sen. Steven Dickerson (R) and State Rep. Michael Curcio (R) introduced bills in the state Senate and state House of Representatives, respectively. The bills restore “the voting rights of persons convicted of certain infamous crimes upon receipt of a pardon or completion of any sentence of incarceration,” according to a statement. Dickerson said the bill would exclude people who have been convicted of murder, aggravated rape, treason or voter fraud, but that all other felons would see their rights restored.Full Article: Tennessee lawmakers introduce bills to restore voting rights for convicted felons | TheHill.
Some lawmakers in Tennessee are pushing legislation that would grant convicted felons a second chance at the right to vote. Currently, there are more than 400,000 convicted felons across the state of Tennessee who don’t have that right. But a bill put forth by Democratic State Senator Brenda Gilmore from Nashville could change that. “My view is if you want people to act civilized and be civilized, you have to treat them in a civilized manner,” said Democratic District 28 State Rep. Yusuf Hakeem.Full Article: Tennessee lawmakers introduce bill to restore voting rights to f - WRCBtv.com | Chattanooga News, Weather & Sports.
Tennessee: Path to new voting machines in Shelby County gets longer with special elections | The Daily Memphian
Don’t look for new voting machines for the October 2019 Memphis elections. Shelby County Elections Administrator Linda Phillips says the special election in state Senate District 32 has pushed back plans for the move to new machines with a paper audit trail. “I do not believe it would be possible to have them in place and do the training and all of the work necessary to have them used in the October elections,” Phillips said Thursday on The Daily Memphian Politics podcast. Early voting was to open Friday in the special primary election for the state Senate seat Republican Mark Norris gave up to become a federal judge. The winners of the primaries advance to a March 12 special general election. The Shelby County Election Commission still plans to issue a request for proposal, or RFP, soon that sets standards for what a new voting system must have for potential vendors to submit bids. The RFP must be cleared by county attorneys and purchasing officials.Full Article: Path to new voting machines gets longer with special elections - The Daily Memphian.
A state government group is renewing its call for Tennessee to keep a paper trail of voters’ ballots roughly 10 years after coming out with a similar recommendation that resulted in little change.
Just 14 of the state’s 95 counties produce some sort of a paper record for independent recounts and audits, according to the Tennessee Advisory Commission on Intergovernmental Relations. The group first urged changes to the state’s election system in 2007, when it found only two counties had such requirements. All the other counties use direct recording electronic voting machines with touch screens that do not produce a paper record that can be recounted and audited independent of the voting machine’s software. “Although ensuring that elections are safe and secure is not a new challenge, as technology and election systems have evolved, so has the risk to security,” the report reads. “The 2016 election cycle brought the potential vulnerabilities of electronic election infrastructure to the attention of national, state, and local officials, the media, and the general public.” Tennessee is one of 14 states with no statutory requirement of a paper record of all votes.
Concerns about voter registrations and the security of electronic voting machines are looming over the upcoming election in Tennessee’s largest county. Two lawsuits have been filed in connection with Tuesday’s pivotal election in Shelby County, the largest by population in Tennessee and the one that includes Memphis. Election officials there have pushed back against allegations of voter suppression and that they are not doing enough to protect the election process. Tennessee features a race for governor and a tight U.S. Senate race between Republican Marsha Blackburn, who served 16 years in the U.S. House, and Democrat Phil Bredesen, a former Tennessee governor. The Senate race is being closely watched nationally as Democrats try to flip the seat in a state with relatively low voter turnout.Full Article: Concerns Over Voter Registrations Loom in Tennessee County - The New York Times.
An effort to have the federal Department of Homeland Security conduct a cyber-security threat assessment of Shelby County’s touchscreen voting machines and a have a special master review the county’s voting system has been denied in Memphis Federal Court. The temporary restraining order seeking those measures was sought by the group Shelby Advocates for Valid Elections – or SAVE – before the Oct. 17 start of early voting in advance of the Nov. 6 election day. The request was part of a larger lawsuit still pending before U.S. District Judge Thomas L. Parker that seeks to bar the use of the touchscreen voting machines after the November election. “Although the law recognizes the voters’ rights can be impaired any number of ways, to be actionable under due process, the system must be fundamentally unfair,” Parker wrote in the Oct. 24 ruling, adding SAVE has not shown that.Full Article: Federal court dismisses challenge aimed at voting machines - The Daily Memphian.
A legal battle between voting rights activists and the Shelby County Election Commission rages on. A key hearing in Chancery Court was postponed Wednesday afternoon. The subject of the hearing was a lawsuit accusing the Shelby County Election Commission of suppressing voters. “When you start talking about voter suppression, one suppressed vote is one too many,” Earle Fisher, with Up The Vote 901, said. The suit was filed against the commission by the NAACP Memphis chapter and the Tennessee Black Voter Project. It concerns 4,000 to 6,000 incomplete or rejected registration forms.Full Article: Voter suppression lawsuit between activists and election commission continues | WREG.com.
When the first day of early voting in advance of the Nov. 6 election day had ended Wednesday, Shelby County election commissioner Norma Lester offered her verdict on how it went with a brief Facebook post. “Don’t know any other way to say it except the first day of Early Voting was absolute HELL!” she wrote. “Hoping for a better Second day.” A total of 11,445 Shelby County voters cast their ballots on the first day of the voting period that runs through Nov. 1 and takes in 27 polling places countywide. The total, which includes absentee ballots, is more than three times the 3,215 early voters at 20 sites on the opening day of early voting for the same election cycle in 2014 and more than double the 4,713 at 21 sites in 2010. The total early voting turnout was 84,711 four years ago and 109,232 in 2010.Full Article: Glitches, suspicion overshadow heavy start of early voting - The Daily Memphian.
On Friday, a 30-year-old culinary student and Nigerian immigrant in Nashville, Tennessee, attempted to update her voter registration information so that she could vote in the state’s upcoming primaries. The woman, Funmilayo Ekundayo, had voted in two previous elections, so updating her registration should have been routine. But after getting through the second step of Tennessee’s multistep online voter registration system, which rolled out in 2017, Ekundayo was told by the website that records showed she was “not a citizen of the United States.” It was just days before Tennessee’s July 3 deadline to vote in the August primaries.Full Article: Tennessee's Citizens Told They're Undocumented By Voter Registration Site.
Democrats in Tennessee’s largest county are accusing election officials of trying to suppress black votes in early voting preceding the August elections. Shelby County Democratic Party Chairman Corey Strong on Wednesday criticized the decision by the county Election Commission to make Agricenter International the only open polling location on the first five days of the early voting process, which starts July 13. Strong said the location in suburban east Memphis is too far away for people who live in urban black neighborhoods who rely on public transportation to get to voting locations. He argued the location, plus three new suburban sites being opened later as early voting spots, will make it easier for Republicans to vote compared with Democrats.Full Article: Democrats in Tennessee county allege voter suppression | The Herald.