President Donald Trump claimed, without offering evidence, that 3 to 5 million voters illegally cast ballots in the 2016 presidential election. The allegation brought security and integrity of elections into question.
Rotary Club of McMinnville held its weekly meeting on Thursday with guest speakers Tre Hargett, Tennessee Secretary of State, and Mark Goins, chairman of Election Assistance Commission Board, to address the security and integrity in Tennessee elections.
“We want every eligible voter to have the opportunity to vote and if you aren’t eligible, we want to make it hard for you to vote,” said Hargett. “We want to make it easy to vote but hard to cheat. There are two sides of the coin: There is voter participation and there is also voter integrity. We want to make it to where, when each and every one of you cast your vote, you know we count it once, no more and no less, and that your vote isn’t canceled out by someone who is voting illegally in the state of Tennessee. We have several tools in our tool box.”
Added Goins, “Sometimes you will hear people say there is no voter fraud. You have to be realistic about this. I don’t care what angle and avenue in life, there is someone who is trying to cheat the system. Occasionally, there’s a bad apple.”
The first line of defense against bad apples lies at the local level.
“The first defense we have for voter fraud is poll officials in the 95 counties,” said Goins. “When you start looking at election integrity, locally is the first level of defense. In Tennessee, hopefully, we have made it hard to cheat but easy to vote.”
Goins says requiring photo ID for voters, removal of deceased individuals from voter rolls, and preventing noncitizens from voting are emphasized.
Another check and balance is having Republicans and Democrats serving on local election commissions.
“On our local election commission, we have Republicans and Democrats that serve,” said Goins. “That is also something that’s in the code. It’s something we are supposed to do and the legislature has said this is a check and balance. Believe me, if the Republicans are trying to cheat, the Democrats will let us know. If the Democrats are trying to cheat, the Republicans will let us know.”
Tennessee is among 30 states that have banned together to prevent its residents from voting in more than one state.
“The legislature gave us authority to enter a compact with other states and so far, there are 30 states that have entered the compact,” said Goins. “What we do is compare our voter rolls with these other states to try and find out if someone has registered to vote somewhere else. We don’t want someone registered to vote in Florida voting in the great state of Tennessee.”
Computer hackers cannot affect Tennessee elections, they said.
“You may have seen in the news where individuals are talking about hackers,” said Goins. “Let me very clear about this in Tennessee. The way that voting system is currently set up, it is not connected to the internet. If you are going to hack something, you have to have a way to get into it through the internet. We don’t have that. It’s independently set up. On election night, for integrity purposes, for transparency purposes, those machines print out tally tape that’s printed, not only at the local level at that precinct. It would be impossible to hack an election, especially in Tennessee.”
After election night, the numbers are then “verified” by each county before the results are considered final.
Harder to detect, said Goins, is vote buying.
“One of the harder things to detect and it is a form of voter fraud is vote buying. From time to time, we get tips on vote buying. There is a tool out there. The tool is prosecution. It’s a felony to vote buy. "
Anyone who witnesses possible voter fraud can report the questionable activity by calling toll free 1-877-850-4959.
You can hear more from Hargett and Goins on WCPI 91.3 FM. They will be on the air Tuesday at 5 p.m., Wednesday at 5:05 a.m.; Thursday at 1 p.m.; and Friday at 1:05 a.m.