Democratic U.S. Rep. Jim Cooper on Friday urged Tennessee’s Republican-led legislature to use $29 million-plus in federal money to require backup paper ballots for elections, citing concerns from national security experts that paperless systems could be vulnerable to hacking from Russia and others. Though Cooper isn’t sure how much adding a paper trail would cost, the Nashville congressman said the leftover federal Help America Vote Act money could help secure the ballots, possibly in time for the local primaries in May. Tennessee largely uses paperless machines. “We have an opportunity to improve our election system so that it cannot be hacked, so the voters have complete faith in the integrity in the system, so that democracy works well here in Tennessee,” Cooper told reporters Friday.
A state bill by Democratic Senate Caucus Leader Jeff Yarbro of Nashville that would require the backup paper records by 2020 is slated for a committee hearing Tuesday.
It’s unclear whether it will get serious consideration, partly because the concept hasn’t drawn the same calls for quick adoption from state elections officials.
Adam Ghassemi, Tennessee Secretary of State Tre Hargett’s spokesman, said counties choose from state- and federally certified machines, equipment changes are typically done during nonelection years and machines also aren’t connected to the internet. Officials have said Tennessee wasn’t one of the 21 states notified by the U.S. Department of Homeland Security last year about attempted system breaches by Russians in the 2016 elections.