Published April 28, 2021
By Jon Styf [The Center Square contributor] –
The Tennessee Legislature nearly unanimously approved a bill that requires the addition of a watermark on all absentee ballots.
The Tennessee Election Integrity Act would have little impact financially on local election commissions, according to the bill’s fiscal note.
Senate Bill 1314 passed the Senate, 27-0, on Monday, and the House adopted the Senate version of the bill Tuesday, 92-1. The bill will now head to Gov. Bill Lee to sign.
“Democrats are for secure elections,” Rep. Antonio Parkinson, D-Memphis, said Tuesday while praising the bill. “Don’t get it twisted.”
Rep. Bruce Griffey, R-Paris, said there are five vendors in the state that provide the paper for absentee ballots and all are able to put the watermarks on the ballot.
After some debate on the cost of previously purchased paper without the watermarks, Griffey said the estimated cost would be $105 per election commission.
Rep. Scott Cepicky, R-Culleoka, joked that he wanted to make sure a roll call vote was taken on the measure. Rep. Larry Miller, D-Memphis, asked the bill sponsor to ensure that no part of the bill was about voter suppression.
“I think this bill is to ensure that absentee ballots that go out have an additional security measure,” Griffey said.
A previous version of the bill required that no private funds could be accepted by election commissions or election officials for use in conducting an election. The original bill was aimed at preventing “dark money” from being involved in elections.
The amended version, however, was about only the watermark addition to paper absentee ballots instead.
“All Tennesseans desire secure elections,” said Rep. Jerome Moon, R-Maryville. “Thank you for a very well thought out, very researched piece of legislation.”