The group calls to oppose the purchase of voting machines

By on June 3, 2022 0

Former, current and future Shelby County commissioners gathered on Friday to voice their opposition to a plan to approve the purchase of new voting machines for Shelby County, an idea set to be voted on by the current county commission on Monday.

The Elections Commission said it would allow voters to choose between voting on a machine that would then print a ballot or voting with a pencil on a Scantron paper machine after the county spent $5.8 million on new machines from Election Systems & Software, LLC, known as ES&S.

If the resolution is approved, the equipment would be fully operational by the August general election, according to the Electoral Commission.

But the group meeting on Friday expressed concern that this could lead to the use of hand-marked paper ballots by voters who knew how to ask for them, meaning the majority of voters would still use ballot-marking devices. ballots, something the Shelby has long opposed. Departmental commission.

“Election security experts are overwhelmingly of the opinion that (hand-marked paper ballots) are the most secure system,” said Steve Mulroy, a former county commissioner who is currently running for district attorney. Shelby County. “For reasons that boggle the mind, the Elections Commission has been insisting for years on a much more expensive and more hackable ballot-marking device.

After:Shelby County Commission to consider voting machines with ballot marking devices and paper ballots

While the majority of voters use the machines, less than 50% will have a paper ballot, not enough to do a real audit of the election, Mulroy said.

The Shelby County Commission has twice voted against purchase plans similar to the one presented Monday. And, the commission passed resolutions calling for the purchase of hand-marked paper ballots, a method of voting used in more than 35 states, Mulroy said, and neighboring places like Hamilton and DeSoto.

“I think we’re at a crossroads here,” said current Shelby County Commissioner Van Turner, who participated in the press conference virtually. “The commission has addressed this issue on several occasions and we have said in our resolutions that we prefer – marked paper ballots.

The machines currently in use in the Shelby County elections are 16 years old – purchased in 2006. They are nearing the end of their life.

After the Shelby County Commission last rejected the purchase of voting machines, the Elections Commission sued the county. This trial which is on appeal.

On May 20, the Elections Commission filed a motion to expedite the appeal, explaining how two of the three servers used for current voting machines failed.

“The backup server periodically shuts down and we live in terror that it will stop working,” reads the petition filed by the election commission. “Consider, for example, what would happen if the server died on election night. The election results would not be lost, but it would take up to 6 p.m. to get the election summary results and 2 weeks to get the precinct results, as the results for each precinct and early voting location would have to be transcribed manually.

Future District 31 committee member and registered Democrat Sarah Wilkerson Freeman said election administrator Linda Phillips dragged her heels in accepting the will of the elected county commissioner until the breakdown of old machinery rendered the dire situation.

“At the end of the day, ignoring the will of the elected county commissioners per se, I really think, should be considered troubling, very, very troubling, because it was the voters who put the county commission in place and they said repeatedly no to these proposals from the Electoral Commission,” she said.

Not only have proponents of hand-marked paper ballots argued that they are more secure and easier to verify, but they also argue that the systems are cheaper.

In its initial offer, ES&S listed a proposal of nearly $4 million for ballot marking devices and $1.4 million for hand-marked paper ballots.

However, Phillips later offered to pay $5.08 million for ES&S’ ballot-marking devices and $4.8 million for the hand-marked paper ballot option, according to the documents provided to The Commercial Appeal by Election Commissioner Bennie Smith. The offers of two other suppliers have also been modified. At the time, Phillips told The Commercial Appeal that changes were made due to the complexity of Tennessee law or voting practices.

Proponents of ballot-marking devices, however, argue that they are quick, reduce the cost of actual elections, and are better for voters with disabilities.

The resolution will need a majority vote from the committee on Monday to be approved and the voting machines purchased. In committee on Wednesday, five commissioners indicated their support for the point, commissioners Mark Billingsley, David Bradford, Brandon Morrison, Michael Whaley and Willie Brooks Jr. Three abstained, including Turner, Reginald Milton and Edmund Ford Jr. Other commissioners were not present.

On Friday, future county commissioner Erika Sugarmon, who takes office in September, discussed her bid for city council several years ago, an election she narrowly lost. Voters demanded a recount, she said. Sugarmon has long been a proponent of hand-marked paper ballots.

“How do you tell a machine? You can’t,” she said. “It’s game over. I’m asking the Shelby County commissioners, hold on. Wait for the new commissioners to take office on September 1. We can take care of it then.

Katherine Burgess covers county government and religion. She can be reached at [email protected], 901-529-2799 or followed on Twitter @kathsburgess.