In Legislative Updates

Tennessee’s 2022 legislative session is well under way, and we’re keeping a close eye on the proposed bills involving our state’s election process.

What voting and election legislation have we seen so far? Here’s a summary of the issues that we see trending:

Enhanced election audits: Currently, only the counties that use optical scan voting machines, i.e., those with paper ballots, are required to audit ballots following certain elections, but a couple of bills could change that.

HB2585/SB2675 would require randomly selected counties to conduct risk-limiting audits, a statistically based technique of randomly selecting ballots to audit, before the election results are certified. This type of audit is aligned with election security best practices, as they help to ensure that voting equipment and processes are working properly before election results are finalized.

Whereas others, like HB1883/SB1865 and HB2112/SB1939, propose implementing audits performed after an election has been certified and a result announced. Unlike the audits proposed in HB2585/SB2675, these “forensic” audits are new, coming on the heels of the 2020 election. These bills would establish a system that review ballots six months to a year after an election as opposed to before results are certified as final.

Voting machines with voter-verified paper audit trails: While most states (all but six) use voting machines that provide voters a verifiable paper audit trail, two-thirds of Tennessee counties still do not.

ThinkTennessee has long advocated in support of voting machines capable of producing paper trails. Cost remains a barrier for many counties, which is why we also recommended that the state provide financial support to enable the machine upgrades in our post-2020 election report.

A handful of new bills, like HB 2331/SB 2558, sponsored by both parties, would require counties to provide this election security best practice. Importantly, the Secretary of State noted in his recent budget presentation before the Senate Finance, Ways, and Means Committee that the state has over $30 million dollars in Help America Vote Act (HAVA) funding available that can be used to purchase these new voting machines.

Prohibition of non-citizen voting: HB 2128/SB 2245 reiterates that a person must be a citizen to vote in federal, state, or local elections, and it prohibits county, municipality, or other political subdivisions from granting voting rights to non-US citizens. It also expands the sources election officials may use to confirm citizenship and addresses of registered voters from traditional state agencies to non-traditional commercially available data.

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