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Election Commission working to effect changes to county’s voting machines

By Ty Butler

Members of the Unicoi County Election Commission committee recently met Friday, Aug. 19, to discuss upcoming changes to the county’s voting machines.

“Overall, I think residents should feel fully confident in using the machines we have now, but moving forward the election commission wants to provide another layer of protection for its citizens,” said Administrator of Elections Sarah Fain in an interview after the meeting.

The state of Tennessee’s General Assembly will require all voting machines to produce “paper trail” votes by 2024. Fain said the documented voting trail will allow officials to recount votes and confirm results after an election has concluded.

Since 2005, Fain and her staff have used the direct-recording electronic (DRE) voting machines, also primarily used by most other election offices.

The DRE machines have been a topic of discussion for the past few years, as some feel that the devices are more susceptible to error and voter fraud.

Fain noted that her department had not experienced election manipulation, but decided to look for new outlets after the assembly mandated the newest machines earlier this year.

“We have full confidence in our machines, but this is just one more layer of protection moving forward,” said Fain. “We want to further reassure the public. I think that voters in Unicoi County have full confidence our current systems, but this is just another way to protect them.”

Fain said that the department’s current machines have been tested periodically to ensure accuracy. She noted that the voting machines have not experienced any issues in past years, but the commission will have to upgrade to voting machines equipped with a “paper trail” after recent legislation passed by the Tennessee General Assembly.

The “paper trail” machines will be required by in two years, but Fain hopes to see changes much sooner. She said that the new machines are likely to be delivered to the county within a year.

“Our hope is that they would come in the summer or spring of 2023,” said Fain. “That would give us an opportunity for training and public demonstration.”