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Citizen escorted out of county meeting
Paper Ballot Petitioners-With Officer.jpg
Trinidad Ramirez is escorted out of Monday night’s Warren County Commission meeting by two deputies when he went over the two-minute time limit and refused to stop speaking. - photo by Bethany Porter

A citizen petitioning for paper ballots at the Warren County Commission meeting Monday night had to be escorted out when he refused to follow the two-minute time limit rule. 

Stacy Lee, Nicki Jewell, and Trinidad Ramirez were scheduled for public comment and each asked commissioners to back them on pushing for a paper ballot voting system. 

Public commenters are only allowed two minutes to speak at county meetings. Ramirez, a military veteran, would not stop speaking once his time was up, resulting in his removal.

Lee started off the public comments by asking for paper ballot elections.

“In the state of Tennessee there are 95 counties and out of those 95 counties there are 65 counties that use Direct Recording Equipment and that is hackable because it uses the internet,” said Lee. “I know that we use MicroVote here, I understand that, but when I tell people about paper ballots the first thing they say is, ‘Well that’s too difficult.’ Well you know sometimes we have to do hard things for future generations so I am asking you guys to consider that and look into it because our future is at stake and it is looking like we are going to need reform across the whole state. Because if 65 counties have Direct Recording Equipment that means it is completely hackable. You all have computers. Y’all have been hacked, you know what this is. It is not that hard to hack.”

Warren County election administrator Susie Davenport was contacted Tuesday and she said MicroVote is the company that builds the Direct Recording Equipment voting machines in Warren County and they absolutely cannot be connected to the internet. The machines Warren County uses are MicroVote Infinity machines.

“Our voting machines cannot be connected to the internet in any shape, form, or fashion,” said Davenport. “Our machines are DRE voting machines and no they do not connect to the internet. When they make a selection on the machine it is recorded in the machine and there is actually a print out that we get at the end of the night after Election Day and there is an internal memory that retains that. Data is scrambled so you don’t know who anybody’s vote is, but we are not connected to the internet in any way.”

Davenport said when they do use a computer to find registration information, it is secured with a VPN and does not ever connect to the voting machines. 

Lee also mentioned House Bill 2074 that would require county election commissions to use only ballot-marking devices or hand-marked ballots and tabulate the ballots using an electronic tabulator or by a hand count. Davenport says paper ballots will leave a lot of room for error.

“I think it would be a wrong move,” said Davenport. “I think that you would be allowing, well one of the things the bill asks for is the poll workers count the votes on Election Night. Paper ballots and the poll workers count them on Election Night. They are going to be tired. If we had everybody looking at these ballots and writing hash marks for how many they saw for this candidate or that one, you might accidentally miss a hash mark or read a vote wrong. You are allowing a lot of room for tired eyes, human error, and misreading. I think we have proven an electronic reader is much more accurate than tired human eyes.”

Jewell echoed Lee when it was her time to speak and also claimed the machines were hackable and that she was pushing for paper ballots. Ramirez brought documents for commissioners, county attorney, and sheriff. Ramirez claimed he had an actual report from Wisconsin by their office of special council to show the voting system was not secure.

“If we can’t secure our vote, my service, the service of the men from Warren County that died here is all gone in vain,” said Ramirez. “I am here my brothers to protect all of you. I am a servant to all of you. I have already been crushed for you, and I am going to need a little bit more than two minutes. I ask you don’t dishonor me. Because this information is crucial because I can only tell you the paper work that I left you with my name in front of you shows you my security clearance in our intelligence community and so I am bringing the information so that we can all be on one sheet of music.” 

“For the prosecuting attorney is an actual live investigation that is happening right now across the United States and all 3,143 counties,” started Ramirez. 

“Time,” said Commissioner Michael Bell.

“My brothers, just hold on,” said Ramirez.

“Sorry, we have a rule that we have to follow so I’m sorry,” said Commissioner Blaine Wilcher.

“How can we get the information that we need to protect ourselves? To protect you. Because I have one more piece of paperwork tonight,” started Ramirez.

“Times up,” said Bell again.

“Times up Trinidad. You can email any of us,” said Wilcher.

“This is it brother, it is the codes to the FEMA that I want to give to you all because we are in dereliction,” said Ramirez.

“Trinidad we are going to have to move on, I’m sorry but we have rules that we have to follow. I do appreciate your service,” said Wilcher.

Two court officers then escorted Ramirez out of the room.