by Jon Styf
Tennessee’s absentee ballots will have a watermark, starting in elections in 2022.
Gov. Bill Lee signed Senate Bill 1315, the Tennessee Election Integrity Act, which was passed by the Tennessee Legislature last month and will put an approved watermark on all absentee ballots with the goal of providing more security to the election process.
The watermark does not apply to military electronic absentee ballots, which are not printed onto paper. Local election authorities will be required to dispose of previously purchased ballot paper at the end of 2021.
“Each ballot would have to have that watermark when returned or it would not be counted,” Sen. Joey Hensley, R-Hohenwald, said.
The bill did not lead to any discussion in the Senate, but it did lead to some debate in the Tennessee House before it was passed.
The estimated cost per local election commission would be $105, per the bill’s fiscal note, because of the already purchased ballot paper that will need to be disposed of during the process.
“This is a good bill, this is a very good bill, and I’m going to be voting for it,” Rep. Antonio Parkinson, D-Memphis, said during House discussion.
Parkinson said he hoped election commissions would be held accountable if they don’t follow the proper process and send out the new watermarked paper.
The state election commission will approve the watermark, which can be placed on the ballot by any of the 14 vendors that provide paper for ballots.
“The watermark will not be disclosed to the public in terms of what is put out in the paper for the sample ballot,” Rep. Bruce Griffey, R-Paris, said. “That will remain confidential with the local election officials.”
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