Wednesday, May 04, 2005

HELP Tennessee AND the US Election Reform Movement

Yesterday, I wrote all of you to ask you to suppoprt our effort to protect the vote here in Tennessee. I am writing to update you on yesterday's meetings with our legislators and to ask you to please write (and re-write) our Tennessee legislature to support steps to protect our vote.

Yesterday's meetings with legislators went even better than we anticipated. Representative Susan Lynn agreed to amend her bill to require all new voting systems purchased in Tennessee after July, 2005 have a voter-verified paper ballot, that all voting systems have a VVPB by July, 2008 AND that after 2008, all non-manual vote counting systems used in Tennessee would be verified by a mandatory random manual recount of between 5-10% of the votes cast. At the end of the day, Rep. Mike Kernell, a Memphis Democrat, offered to co-sponsor Rep. Lynn's bill. That bipartisan support may be just what is needed to move this bill this session.

That, plus your letters and phone calls. Please take the time to contact all state legislators listed below. You can "cut and paste" the entire email list for each committee and send all committee members one email. (I would recommend that you "bcc" the addresses so the legislators don't know you're sending your email to multiple legislators at the same time.)

In order to expand the value of this email campaign, please write House Speaker Jimmy Naifeh to ask that he allow Rep. Lynn's bill to be heard this session. Speaker Naifeh must approve allowing Rep. Lynn's bill to move forward at this late date. His email address is . Also, I have added two more "cut and paste" email lists below, and that is for all other House and Senate members who are not on any of the committees already listed. With that list, you can communicate with the entire legislature in only a few minutes.

Please help us build on our momentum from yesterday. Take a few minutes to write the legislature and then forward this request to as many election reform-minded Tennesseans as you know. We just may be able to protect our vote here in Tennessee, if we all work together for free, fair and verifiable elections NOW. Thanks for your help. Bernie
To everyone concerned with the integrity of our elections in Tennessee:

On Tuesday afternoon, May 3, a group of concerned citizens will visit all Tennessee state legislators at Legislative Plaza to ask them to do several things NOW to protect our vote here in Tennessee. The cover letter that we will be handing them, along with other materials, is at the bottom of this email.

In a nutshell, we are asking our state legislators (and our county election commissions at the same time) to spend no more money (regardless of whether it is local, state or federal money) on non-verifiable voting systems in Tennessee. At the same time, we are asking the legislature to support current efforts to guarantee voter-verified paper ballots and mandatory random manual recounts be part of the voting process statewide in our state before 2006. (Please read the cover letter below now to familiarize yourself with these steps to protect our vote in Tennessee.)

By copy of this email, we are asking every individual and organization who is concerned with maintaining the integrity of our election process to take time NOW to let our state legislature and your county election commission know how you feel. Please take the time to write key legislators and tell them that you want no more money spent on "vapor ballot" voting systems in Tennessee AND that you want voter-verified paper ballots and mandatory random manual recounts to be part of every county's election process no later than 2006. We are asking you to do three things to show the legislature how many of us there are who are concerned about the integrity of our elections here in Tennessee:

1) Send emails and/or call key legislators NOW to let them know you support the few steps that we believe are necessary to protect the vote here in Tennessee. (Again, review our cover letter below before writing.)

To make this task easier, we have listed the key legislative committees below, in the order of their importance. You can get the phone numbers and other information on committee members by clicking on their names. In addition, we have also created a "cut and paste" list of email addresses for each committee, so you can "cut and paste" this email list to quickly address your own message to that committee about protecting the vote in Tennessee. This will make it possible for you to write the entire committee (or multiple committees) at the same time. (You could also "cut and paste" the cover letter below, or tell them your concerns in your own words.) Here are the key committees, in their order of importance:

House Elections sub-committee of the House State and Local Government committee:

Mary Langston, Committee Secretary
Lawrence Hall, Research Analyst
Lois Deberry, Tom Dubois, Joey Hensley, Ulysses Jones, Edith Langster, Judd Matheny

Cut-and-paste Email list:,,,,,,,
House State and Local Government Committee
Harry Brooks, Dewayne Bunch, Lois DeBerry, Tom DuBois, Joey Hensley, Curtis Johnson, John Litz, Judd Matheny, Larry Miller, Gary Moore, Jason Mumpower, Mary Pruitt, Randy Rinks, Park Strader, Harry Tindell, Curry Todd, Ben West, Jr.

Cut-and-paste email list:,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,


Senate State and Local Government Committee:
House Finance Committee
Craig Fitzhugh, Chair
Harry Tindell, Vice-Chair
  • Johnny Shaw, Secretary
  • Members:
    Joe Armstrong, Stratton Bone, Rob Briley, Tommie Brown, Kent Coleman, Charles Curtiss, Eugene E. Davidson, Tre Hargett, Jere L. Hargrove, Michael Harrison, Beth Harwell, John Hood, Mark Maddox, Steve McDaniel, Mike McDonald, Bob McKee, Kim McMillan, Larry Miller, Chris Newton, Doug Overbey, Phillip Pinion, Randy Rinks, Dennis Roach, Charles Sargent, Janis Sontany, Nathan Vaughn

    Cut-and-Paste Email list:,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,
    Senate Finance Committee
    Douglas Henry, Chair
    Randy McNally, Vice-Chair
    Ward Crutchfield, Secretary

    Members: Tim Burchett, John Ford, Joe Haynes, Roy Herron, Jim Kyle, Jeff Miller, Ron Ramsey, Mike Williams

    Cut-and-Paste Email List:,,,,,,,,,,
    Cut-and-paste list for the rest of the House:,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,

    Cut-and-paste list for the rest of the Senate:,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,


    2) Send emails and/or call your own state House and Senate representatives and help reinforce our message about the few steps that we believe are necessary to protect the vote here in Tennessee that are covered in the cover letter below. You can use this link to locate the email and phone numbers for your legislators, if you do not already know them.

    3) Call and/or visit your county election commission offices in the next week and tell them that you don't want any more money spent on non-verifiable voting systems here in Tennessee. Find out when your county's next election commission meeting is to be held, and plan to attend and voice your concerns.

    We would be happy to provide anyone who needs and wants them with copies of several background papers on the perils of non-verifiable voting systems (several of them only one page long) that may help you as you speak with your legislators, your county election commission members and others. To obtain copies of these (MS Word and Acrobat) documents that support our two-step plan to protect our vote in Tennessee, please contact Bernie Ellis, Organizer, Gatehring To Save Our Democracy, at We will email them to you immediately.

    In closing, we would like every individual and organization here in Tennessee who is concerned about the integrity of our voting systems, and the trust that we must place in our elections, to speak up now. If we work together on this issue, we will not be defeated. In order to rightfully and accurately confer the "consent of the governed" to our elected leaders, we must take time NOW to speak up for these needed changes in our election system. There are so many concerns that all of us have about the present course of our governments (local, state and national) on a host of issues. But regardless of our partisan positions on these issues, unless we can restore faith and trust in our election process by returning to verifiable and auditable voting systems in this country, no other issue has a chance of being addressed successfully through governmental means.

    Please help us demonstrate the strong support for free, fair and verifiable elections as the foundation of our government that we have here in Tennessee and throughout the U.S. Please contact key legislators (including your own) and your county election commissions NOW. If we work together and speak in unison for these few steps to protect our vote, we will succeed. Thanks for your help. (Now read the cover letter below.)

    Bernie Ellis, Organizer, Gathering To Save Our Democracy (
    Two Steps To Protect the Election Process in Tennessee NOW
    Gathering To Save Our Democracy
    May 1, 2005

    In the next month, members of the Tennessee legislature and our 95 county election commissions will be making important decisions about the future of our election process and voting systems that we will soon use in our state. These decisions need to insure the future integrity of our election process, and the continued value of our individual votes. We are asking you to insure that two necessary changes take place that will protect our vote in Tennessee.


    In recent years, Tennessee, like many other states, has taken steps to improve and modernize the voting process. Unfortunately, this upgrading of the Tennessee voting systems has led, in some instances, to adoption of electronic "touch screen" voting machines and other methods that record votes electronically. However, these machines produce no paper ballots or other visible records of the voter's choices that the voter can review and verify to know their votes were counted properly. In addition, without paper ballots, nothing is available to be recounted in the event of an election problem or challenge. In 2004, more than half of all votes cast in Tennessee were recorded on these non-verifiable "paperless" machines. These same machines also have produced many headaches for election officials around the country. They have malfunctioned, miscounted votes and otherwise have failed to record votes accurately. (See the attached materials: "Election 2004: A Partial List of Incidents Reported in the News", "No Review for Key Component of Voting System" and "Facts About Electronic Voting" for a short review of voting machine-related problems. If you want to receive a more comprehensive document which covers the issues we are concerned about in more detail, we would be happy to provide you a copy of "Myth Breakers: Facts About Electronic Elections.")

    Here in Tennessee, we wouldn't deposit our money in a bank that does not keep good records of our transactions and that could not be audited. Why then have we entrusted our election process and our votes to such a non-verifiable and unaccountable system of paperless voting machines? Today, too many Tennesseans cast their votes on "vapor ballots", not on paper ballots. For the sake of our democracy and to regain the trust of the voters, this has to change. That's why we are proposing two steps that need to be taken immediately to protect our votes in Tennessee. We're asking you to act now to support these two improvements in our election process. They must be in place before the 2006 election.

    Two Steps We Need To Take NOW To Protect Our Vote

    1) Voter-Verified Paper Ballots: By 2006, every voter in Tennessee should be able to use or review a paper ballot that shows their choices. Those voter-verified paper ballots should be the "ballots of record" and should be stored for recounts or other election audit purposes. Using voter-verified paper ballots, and maintaining them as the "ballots of record", we will increase the confidence of Tennesseans that their votes were cast as they were intended. All voting systems judged acceptable for use in the 2006 election must use or produce these voter-verified paper ballots.

    2) Mandatory Random Manual Recounts: This step means hand-counting a portion of the paper ballots in counties that use electronic voting or vote counting systems to insure that our votes are counted correctly by these systems. This step will involve introducing a "quality control" check of the accuracy of the reported vote counts whenever and wherever electronic methods are used to cast or count the votes. These small-scale manual recounts (involving 5-10% of the votes cast in a county) will help safeguard the election process from electronic machines which could incorrectly count the votes, either through innocent computer problems, mistakes in the software or intentional fraud.

    In the legislature, decisions are now being made about how counties may use federal Help America Vote Act (HAVA) funds to upgrade Tennessee voting systems. The legislature must decide not to spend any more federal HAVA funds on non-verifiable voting systems. In addition, Representative Susan Lynn has introduced HB 0312 (with its companion bill SB0491), a bill that may provide a framework for accomplishing the two steps we support. We urge you to review these bills, to consider amending them as needed and to support their passage. Taking just these two steps will go a long way to protect and expand voting here in Tennessee. Regardless of your political affiliation, let's work together for these necessary reforms to our Tennessee voting process. Thank you for your consideration and for your support for these two steps to protect the integrity of our election process, and our democratic foundations, here in Tennessee.

    O.K., folks. Thanks in advance for taking the time to contact our legislature. Let's be the small group of determined people who make all the difference. It's our turn -- we are the ones we have been waiting for. Bernie

    Comments: Post a Comment

    << Home

    This page is powered by Blogger. Isn't yours?