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Paper ballots to arrive for November 2012 election

11:17 PM, Nov 1, 2010   |    comments
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Voters around East Tennessee will visit the polls Tuesday, but this is the last November election that they will cast ballots electronically.

State lawmakers delayed the paper ballot law in January 2010 until November 2012. The delay was put in place to give them time to buy the most-up-to-date equipment that complies with federal security standards to reduce voter fraud.

Adminstration of elections for Anderson County, Mark Stephens, is already thinking toward November 2012.

"We are actually going back in time a little bit and going away from electronic voting and going to a paper ballots," said Stephens.

Electronic voting machines currently used in most of Tennessee have been at polling places since 2006. Paper ballots are set to replace the new technology. According to state officials, the change will be more secure.

"They have to go with 2005 standards, which is the highest standard. From what I understand, there's not a machine that's been approved yet," said Stephens.

State lawmakers have not decided which scanning machines they will buy to tally votes. The thought is that filling in a bubble, and putting the paper ballot into an optical scanning machine  that tallies votes is safer than pushing a button and recording votes on a computer chip.

They also believe the paper system will make it easier for election workers to help more people at the polls at once.

This change also comes after many voters complained about the electronic machines being too complicated. 

Reaction from voters to the paper ballots is mixed.

"I think it's crazy and they're going backwards. It doesn't make a lot of sense to me," said Aimee Welton.

"With paper, you can't go wrong. Electronic could foul up. Paper is there in front of you," said Jennifer Helper.

According to Stephens, local governments will see an increase in costs to run an election with the new system in place.  They will likely be responsible for purchasing paper for the ballots, and for re-training election workers.

"Each ballot is very costly but it's going to be a greater financial responsibility for the counties and for the state," said Stephens.

Federal funding will cover equipment needed for the paper system.

The current electronic machine, Stephens said will probably be surplused or sold to foreign countries.

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