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Election administrator says Bowling's bill would make voting process more difficult
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Warren County election administrator Susie Davenport says a bill presented by state Sen. Janice Bowling to eliminate early voting and return to paper ballots probably isn’t going to be popular among many voters.

“People definitely like early voting and that’s easy to see if you look at our numbers,” said Davenport. “In recent years, it’s always been 50% or better who take advantage of early voting. I think the idea is we need to try to make it easy for people to vote. If you eliminate early voting, you’re going to create lines on Election Day that you don’t have now.”

Davenport said, to her knowledge, no one waited more than 30 minutes to vote in the most recent presidential election in November if they showed up during normal voting hours. The only exception, she said, is the people who lined up outside the early voting room in the morning before the doors opened.

Davenport said the November election had the highest voter turnout in Warren County history. She feels confident vote totals were counted accurately.

“Tennessee has a very good system with a lot of checks and balances,” said Davenport. “I feel very comfortable with our system.” Bowling has introduced Senate Bill 1510 which would, as stated, abolish early voting, prohibit the use of voting machines, and require elections to be conducted with watermarked paper ballots that are hand-marked by the voter. “This is my solution to a problem that many people have asked me about,” said Bowling. “Voting is foundational and the integrity of the vote is foundational. This last election cycle, there was so much confusion and so much concern. So many people have asked me, ‘How do I know my vote counts?’ It’s something we need to address.”

The bill passed on first consideration and the next step is for it to be presented at the committee level.

“If this happens, we will do our absolute best to make it work, but I see it being more difficult,” said Davenport. “To count all those paper ballots by hand will take a while and I think it will make it even harder for us to get poll workers. People aren’t going to want to count all those ballots at the end of the day.”

Davenport noted the current voting machines used in Warren County do provide a paper trail and have backup memory.

Bowling said she believes votes can be more easily manipulated in a digital format when they’re on a computer.

“Paper ballots are a way to go back to the future,” said Bowling. “It’s the way it was done for generations.”

Bowling admitted she’s received a great deal of feedback on her proposed legislation since introducing it Feb. 11. She said some people have been “very aggressive” in their dislike for the bill, but she’s also heard from people who support it.