After Senate passage yesterday, the House passed the “Tennessee Election Integrity Act” requiring watermarking on paper absentee ballots. Local election commissions would be required to create unique watermarks for paper absentee ballots. Additionally, election officials must write the word “rejected” and the reason for rejection across the face of a rejected ballot.
Only one individual voted against the bill – State Representative Jason Powell (D-Nashville). Powell didn’t give an explanation on the House floor hearing as to why he voted against the act. As The Tennessee Star reported on Monday, the bill received unanimous and bipartisan support in the House.
The Tennessee Election Integrity Act sponsor, State Representative Bruce Griffey (R-Paris), explained on the House floor that the act provides an extra security provision for elections. He credited House Speaker Cameron Sexton (R-Crossville) for the idea.
In a show of bipartisan support for the Tennessee Election Integrity Act, State Representative Antonio Parkinson (D-Memphis) said that he and other Democrats are in favor of secure elections.
“Democrats are for secure elections. Let me say that again – contrary to the messaging that goes from whoever sends it out: Democrats are for secure elections. This is a good bill, a very good bill, and I want to thank you for bringing it,” said Parkinson.
He asked Griffey what the repercussions were for election commissions that don’t send ballots with watermarks to the state.
Griffey said that the bill doesn’t address anything regarding those concerns. Instead, local and state election officials would address those issues if they occur.
State Representative Scott Cepicky (R-Culleoka) asked that they ensure that this bill would be a roll-call vote. His request drew laughter and applause from the floor – even Sexton laughed, and Griffey applauded.
In response to State Representative G.A. Hardaway’s (D-Memphis) concerns over costs, Griffey clarified that the additional costs borne by local election commissions would total around $105.
Griffey assuaged respective concerns from State Representatives Larry Miller (D-Memphis) and John Clemmons (D-Nashville) that the bill wasn’t addressing voter suppression or electronic absentee ballots. To the latter, Griffey clarified that the electronic absentee ballots were tracked and handled separately – the Tennessee Election Integrity Act only addresses paper absentee ballots.
The bill now heads to the governor’s desk. If approved, it would go into effect in July.
– – –