How much is the security of your vote worth?

It’s not the voting that’s democracy, it’s the counting.
Tom Stoppard, Jumpers (1972) act 1
British dramatist & screenwriter (1937 – )

Since the beginning of this legislative session, the efficacy of your vote has been under attack. HB0614/SB0872 sought to delay the implementation of the Tennessee Voter Confidence Act.

The Act, passed in 2008, mandates a “Paper Ballot” rather than the unverifiable “Electronic Ballots” that are currently in use in 93 of 95 Counties here in Tennessee.

Mary Mancini at Liberadio! has been all over this issue, both through her posts and the Facebook Group she and several others created and maintained.

Thankfully yesterday, the last day of the legislative session, HB0614/SB0872 failed to get a majority in the State Senate by 1 vote, and was sent back to the Calendar Committee. Since the session is now over, the legislature can no longer try to delay the implementation of TVCA.

Unfortunately, that’s not the end of the story. Newly appointed State Elections Coordinator Mark Goins has stated that his office will go to court to stop paper ballots if necessary. Citing a dubious at best fiscal note which has been thoroughly debunked, Goins’ intentions seem less about stifling your right to vote, but more about hindering the verification process mandated in the Tennessee Voter Confidence Act.

Goins says he’s an advocate for paper ballots, but also says

“I’m a friend of paper ballots,” he said again, “But when you push your friends too far, sometime they bite back.”
And, he added, “I’m this close to biting back.” (source)

Nice, so statewide confidence and verifiability of the whole voting system hinges on whether or not an appointed administrator feels pressure to do the job he was appointed to do. Be still, my beating heart. (/snark)

It seems certain that the State will go to court to delay or otherwise challenge the implementation of a verifiable paper ballot in Tennessee, and in doing so, call into question the voting systems here in Tennessee, the motives of the Republican appointed State Administrators.

The question facing Election Commissions in 97.8% of the counties in Tennessee is a much more practical, “What next?” Are they going to hang back and wait to see what happens in court…should any case appear, or are they going to start making plans to comply with the law? What about all the training that will be necessary for their employees? This stuff doesn’t just happen overnight. It seems to me that in order to be in compliance with the law, as it stands now, Election Commissions have to get going on this, no matter what happens or could potentially happen. So I decided to ask around and find out some answers.

Turns out, it’s not only been on their radar, they’ve been looking at solutions since the beginning of the delay debate. Shelby Co. budgeted money to deal with any shortfall that may from HAVA funding not that there should be any. Obviously, it sucks for the taxpayers that Shelby and some 92 other counties have spent scads of money on touch screen voting machines, but there are lots of lingering questions out there about these machines, and Diebold the company that makes the machines we have here in Shelby Co., hasn’t done ANYTHING to answer these questions.

These allegations would be less unsettling if there were some other mechanism than just the “word of the computer and its programmer”. Unfortunately, the idea of using a receipt printer or some such other device isn’t within the letter of the law, and to my knowledge, no such device is certified under the necessary standards. So, it looks like some unfortunate state is going to be buying a whole bunch of used touch screen voting machines from Tennessee Election Commissions…or not Turns out nobody wants these so the market may be saturated with these unwanted beasts. In short, we may just have to let them rot in some warehouse somewhere.

Of course, until Mr. Goins makes a decision on whether to take this case to court, all of this is just speculation. It is good to know that, at least here in Shelby Co. someone’s thinking about the consequences and ready to deal with it when they become reality. I just hope, for the safety of our votes that we don’t have a long and costly legal fight on our hands.

Like the quote at the beginning of this post says, “It’s not the voting that’s democracy, it’s the counting.

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