Tenn. to research cost of paper ballots - WMC Action News 5 - Memphis, Tennessee

Tenn. to research cost of paper ballots

NASHVILLE, Tenn. (AP) - Secretary of State Tre Hargett said Friday that he's researching the fiscal impact new voting machines will have on Tennessee counties after complaints they may be burdened with extra costs.

Under the Tennessee Voter Confidence Act passed last year, new optical-scan machines are required to create a paper trail in case of voting irregularities. Every county in the state must have the machines ready in time for the gubernatorial election in 2010.

As much as $37 million in federal funding is available under the Help America Vote Act - passed in the aftermath of Florida's disastrous 2000 election - to purchase the machines.

But lawmakers say some county election officials are concerned they will be stuck with costs that may exceed the federal funding.

"I'm planning to contact all 95 counties so they can really help us understand what the fiscal impact is on them," Hargett said. "The way the economy is right now, I think these counties are looking for every possible savings they can get."

House Republican Caucus Chairman Glen Casada of Franklin said he's also researching the matter and plans to move forward with legislation that would repeal the act if he finds counties will have to shoulder a lot of costs.

He said another bill that he definitely plans to push this legislative session would remove the provision requiring a hand count if an election is within 3 percentage points.

"That just seems illogical that you could win by 3,000 or 4,000 votes and you still got to recount," Casada said. "That's a great burden on labor and on our local election commissions."

Dick Williams of Common Cause, a group that advocates for stronger ethics and open government, acknowledges counties should expect some costs outside of the federal funding, but just how much is unclear.

"The federal money will buy the new machines, but counties have always been responsible for some local costs, like in this case, it would be the paper ballot," Williams said.

Regardless of costs, he said the Voter Confidence Act is important and shouldn't be repealed.

"We feel that it's worth the cost for the confidence that the voters can have," he said.            


(Copyright 2009 by The Associated Press.  All Rights Reserved.)      

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