By JONATHAN MATTISE, Associated Press
NASHVILLE — Tennessee’s largest county probably won’t have new voting machines that create a voter-verifiable paper trail in place for the presidential primary election on March 3, an attorney for the state said Tuesday.
Janet Kleinfelter of the Tennessee attorney general’s office discussed the timeline to implement the new machines in Memphis-anchored Shelby County during a federal appellate court hearing Tuesday. The hearing involved a lawsuit that has challenged the security of Shelby County’s voting machines.
Kleinfelter said the machines will be in place by August, when state and federal primaries are held.
Previously, Shelby County Elections Administrator Linda Phillips’ office said the goal was to start using the machines in the Super Tuesday elections.
Shelby County commissioners have approved funding for the machines, which are expected to cost $10 million to $12 million. The county is now going through the procurement process, Kleinfelter said.
“Those machines probably will not be in place for the March presidential preference primary simply because there’s not enough time when you take into account early voting,” Kleinfelter said, saying time is needed to prepare the machines, ballots and workers.
Tennessee is one of only 14 states without a statutory requirement of a paper record of all ballots — regarded by most election security experts as crucial to ensuring accurate vote-counting. Only 14 of Tennessee’s 95 counties — with 556,400 registered voters combined — used voting equipment with some sort of paper trail in 2018. Half of those counties made the change just last year.
Nashville has already made the move to machines that produce paper trails. Other counties are following suit.
Election officials have looked at possible vendors for the new machines, Shelby County Election Commission spokeswoman Suzanne Thompson said.
The lawsuit that went to oral arguments in the 6th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals in Cincinnati on Tuesday calls for Shelby to switch to a handwritten ballot and a voter-verifiable paper trial.
A judge dismissed the lawsuit in September, and the group that filed suit, Shelby County Advocates for Valid Elections, appealed.
Adrian Sainz in Memphis contributed to this report.