Local advocates push for paper ballots

SHELBY COUNTY, Tenn. — Some voters and elected officials are pushing for a more secure voting machine system in Shelby County.

The group known as SAVE or “Shelby Advocates for Valid Elections” want paper ballots for future elections.

Members of SAVE said Chattanooga/ Hamilton County already uses this same hand marked paper ballot system.

Related: Memphis group wants more safeguards for machines ahead of October election

It’s similar to filling out a scan-tron like you do for the SAT.

But Shelby County election officials said what works in a smaller county may not work here and the risk for error increases with this system.

2020 is a big election year and members of SAVE want to make sure voting is as secure as possible

“If you believe in the United States of America and want to protect it, you want to have a system of voting that is the most secure, most accurate and that we can have full confidence in the results and we don’t have that right now,” said Sarah Wilkerson Freeman with Germantown Voters.

Shelby County commissioners approved funding for the election commission to buy new voting machines this year.

SAVE wants the election commission to buy hand marked paper ballots.

The group said its cheaper, more secure and has added layers of protection like risk limiting audits.

“After the election, you take a statistically accurate sample of each precinct’s hand marked ballots and double check to make sure that the tabulator didn’t make a mistake,” said Carol Chumney an attorney representing SAVE.

FOX13 asked if conversations have been had with Linda Phillips or anyone else with the election commission.

“The election commission hasn’t made a formal decision yet and Linda Phillips has informally indicated she is leading toward the ballot marking devices which isn’t the one we favor,” said Steve Mulroy.

No one from the election commission was available for an interview on Friday.

In a written statement to FOX13, Linda Phillips, the administrator of elections, called hand marked ballots a “dreadful choice for Shelby County.”

Phillips said in part, "while it is true that a precinct scanner can detect an error on a voter marked paper ballot, it dramatically slows down processing of voters, which means that you have to have more equipment and poll workers to operate them. When a ballot scanner rejects a ballot for over or under votes, an election judge has to get involved."

Commissioner Reginald Milton said commissioners will be discussing a resolution urging the election commission to buy paper ballots very soon.

Commissioners are the ones who approve the funding for new machines.