Law To Require New Voting System

Loudon County is changing the way it votes… again.

Last week, Gov. Phil Bredesen signed into law the State Legislature’s Voter Confidence Act, which requires all counties to use the same type of voting system.

In 2006, Loudon County switched its voting system from the old machines to the new E-Slate electronic machines. 

The new voting system that Loudon County and 94 other Tennessee counties will adopt is called Optical Scan Voting. All counties will use machines from the same optical scan manufacturer, which will be chosen by the Secretary of State and the State Election Commission.

Voters using optical scan machines are issued paper ballots, which they mark by darkening in or marking a box next to their chosen candidate’s name. Each voter puts his or her paper ballot into a scanner, which scans and counts each race.

Unofficial election results will still be known as soon as all the precincts report in to the Election Commission office on Election Day. Even though the system scans and knows the results in each precinct as soon as the last ballot is cast, election results cannot be transmitted over phone lines.

So, election officials will take a data card out of the scanner at each precinct and drive it to the election commission office where it will be read on a machine there. Each scanner has two back up data cards in case there is a malfunction.

The Voter Confidence Act also requires a mandatory hand recount for the top race in each election. In addition, it requires a recount of 3 percent of early votes cast and a recount of 3 percent of votes cast in each voting precinct.

They may be required to be recounted the night of the election or, election workers could do the recounting the day after the election, when they count provisional ballots. The decision would be up to the state division of election coordinator’s office in Nashville.

The only way to do the required recount is by hand. Election results are always unofficial until the Election Commission certifies them. The county sends its results to the Secretary of State to certify.

Optical scan is a good voting system, It’s very easy to use and is much faster with basically no standing in line to vote. There is also a paper record along with the computer count.

The Voter Confidence Act will not affect the county’s election this August. The switch must be made prior to November 2010. However, Loudon County Election Commissioner, Dana Zehner, said she was unsure when Loudon County will have the new machines but beginning with the August election, people who vote in early voting will be using the new Optical Scan voting system.