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GOP states are looking to upgrade their voting system amid false 2020 claims

The Republican-dominated Legislature has rebuffed Jeff Yarbro, Tennessee Democratic Senate Minority Leader,'s request to require that the state's voter infrastructure include a paper record for each ballot cast. This was a call Jeff Yarbro made for years.

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GOP states are looking to upgrade their voting system amid false 2020 claims

However, false claims continue to swirl about the 2020 presidential election and some GOP voters remain distrustful towards voting machines. Tennessee Republican lawmakers have been slow to change their mind on a paper-backed mandate. Similar situations are unfolding in five other states, most of them Republican-led, that don't have a paper-based voting system.

The Tennessee GOP bill is moving forward. It would give Tennessee until 2024 to join the large majority of states with voting systems that keep a record of each ballot cast. This will allow for verification of any disputed results.

Yarbro stated that he will accept the change, even though he doesn’t love the impetus.

The Nashville lawmaker stated that she was disappointed by the delay and was also concerned about the reasoning behind the decision. "But at its core, this is good policy."

Mississippi and Indiana will have a paper trail in place by 2024, according to plans. Texas lawmakers passed a law last year requiring paper records by 2026. Texas is home to slightly more than one in 10 voters who cast their ballots using paperless machines. Republican Lt. Governor Dan Patrick praised the move for helping rebuild trust in elections.

Two states, Louisiana (Democratic-led New Jersey) and Louisiana (which has a Republican governor and a Republican Legislature), have had their efforts thwarted by funding or process issues.

"Across the political spectrum, there's some sense that 2020's controversy underscores the importance of having paper records of voter intention that we can return to," stated Mark Lindeman director of Verified Voting which tracks voting equipment in different states.

In Tennessee, GOP Gov. Bill Lee proposed $15 million to switch to paper-backed, voter-verifiable equipment. According to state officials, the changeout could cost as much as $37 million with federal election funds remaining. Nearly two-thirds (95) of the state's 95 county do not have a paper record.

Republican legislators say Tennessee's elections work well. They focus their scrutiny on other states, despite the lack of evidence of widespread fraud or any other major problems in the 2020 election.

"When they had to vote, there were many questions about it, particularly in several states, Georgia -- 'Is that done right?'," said Tennessee Sen. Ed Jackson. "So, that is what we are trying accomplish. We don't have this issue in Tennessee."

Election officials across the country continue to struggle with false claims made by Donald Trump and his aides about the 2020 election. This has resulted in new mail voter restrictions, threats toelection officers, time-consuming and costly partisan poll reviews, and calls to abandon all voting machines and count only paper ballots by hand.

According to Verified Voting, 68% of U.S. voters will hand mark their ballots for the 2022 midterm elections. The rest will use touchscreen voting machines. Federal officials reported that only 5% of the ballots cast for 2020's presidential election didn't have a paper record. This is down from 18% in 2016.

This will decrease further by 2024.

This year, Republicans in Indiana decided not to replace the equipment. They instead added a small printer and 5,000 voting machines to make a paper trail for 2024.

The plan was approved by the GOP-dominated Legislature in March, despite opposition from voter advocacy groups. They claim the printer technology is old and uses lightweight thermal paper similar to cash register receipts. This lightweight thermal paper is easy to damage and allows voters to see only a portion of their ballot through a small window.

In Indianapolis, Democratic State Rep. Ed DeLaney argued that not having voter-completed papers ballots available for recounts is more dangerous than claims of mail ballot fraud.

DeLaney stated, "If we want voter confidence, we must do the simple things that are effective in preventing miscounts." "That's all we have to do, then we can worry about our fears and fantasies."

Mississippi legislators sent legislation this month to the governor requiring paper backups by 2024. Last year, Republican Senator Jeff Tate stated that his bill addressed the perception of rigged vote equipment on radio.

Republican Senator Joe Pennacchio of New Jersey has introduced a bill that would require paper ballots for in-person voting. Pennacchio said that even with the complaints about the 2020 election, it was "still the right thing to have to do." Other majority-party Democrats also proposed paper trails. New Jersey has had a long-standing requirement that paper-backed voting systems be upgraded. However, a 2009 deadline has not been met due to funding problems.

New Jersey is home to a variety of counties that have voting machines that generate paper trails. There are also some that don’t. In order to allow early in-person voting in New Jersey, a law was passed in 2021 that required machines to keep paper records. Although the machines were funded by the state for 21 counties, only a few of them purchased enough to allow their entire election to be conducted on paper-backed machines.

According to Verified Voting, about a third of Mississippi voters and half of New Jersey voters use paperless voting machines.

Louisiana's Republican Secretary-of-State Kyle Ardoin favors ballot-marking machines that produce a paper receipt that can be electronically scanned to make results available on election night. However, delays in the process have hampered efforts to replace state's paperless machines.

A new commission was created by a 2021 law to recommend a replacement that uses a paper trail. The commission is considering its options and has received calls for paper ballots to be hand-marked. There are also unsubstantiated claims that there was "cheating" in 2020.

There is no evidence that there was widespread fraud or coordinated attempts to steal the 2020 elections. The Associated Press examined every case of voter fraud in six states disputed in Trump's favor and found less than 475 cases, a figure that would have had no impact on the outcome.

Tennessee election officials have stated that counties have the right to choose their voting equipment over the years. They have also advocated for paper-backed systems in recent years. They support the requirement of this change because fewer paperless machines can be produced.

A Republican-led subcommittee in the legislative chamber stopped a Democratic push to establish a paper trail mandate last year.

"If there isn't a problem, then why are we trying fix it?" Ryan Williams, GOP Representative, stated in 2021 that it was wrong to mandate that local governments pay the bill.

Williams has since changed his mind. Williams voted in favor of the bill last month. He told fellow lawmakers that Tennesseans were being "disturbed" by "elections taking place in other states and that they felt disenfranchised."

Williams stated, "I believe one of the things that our citizens wanted after the last election was that we had a way to verify their documents in paper."

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