Tennessee Legislature Passes Election Integrity Bill Requiring Watermarks on Absentee Ballots

Written by Martin Walsh

OPINION: This article contains commentary which reflects the author's opinion




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The Tennessee Legislature has passed a major reform bill that would require all absentee ballots to contain a watermark for added security.

As noted by The Center Square, the state House passed the Tennessee Election Integrity Act on a 92-1 vote last week.

On Monday, 27 state senators voted in favor of the measure, while one member who was present abstained from voting.

“We just passed legislation I co-sponsored that requires a non-visible watermark be placed on every mailed absentee ballot, further ensuring the integrity of ballots and elections in TN,” GOP state Rep. Jason Zachary tweeted April 27. “No watermark, the ballot is rejected.”

The bill now heads to GOP Gov. Bill Lee, who is expected to sign it into law.

This legislation will make it more difficult for fraudsters to duplicate absentee ballots.

Last week, the Florida Legislature passed a sweeping election bill that will make significant changes to mail voting in the state after a record number of Floridians voted by mail in the 2020 election.

Florida Governor Ron DeSantis said on Fox News Thursday night that he plans to sign S.B. 90.

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If he does, Florida would become the latest state to overhaul its election system in the wake of the 2020 election.

The bill would add ID requirements for voters requesting to vote by mail.

Voters would have to provide either their driver’s license or state ID number or the last four digits of their Social Security Number when asking for a mail ballot.

The bill would also require this information to register to vote or to update a voter’s registration.

The bill would also make voters request mail ballots more frequently.

Florida has allowed mail ballot requests to last for two general election cycles, but the new bill would require voters to request a mail ballot every general election cycle.

Drop boxes are one of the bill’s main targets. Under the bill, they could be placed at election supervisors’ offices, permanent supervisor branch offices, and early voting sites.

This is a slight change from the current law. It would require them to be at permanent branch locations rather than any branch office.

Drop boxes would have to be distributed to give voters in a county equal access.

The measure also places limits on the hours some drop boxes can be accessed.

Drop boxes at early voting sites could only be accessed during early voting hours, but at supervisors’ offices, they would be accessible at any hour.

The drop boxes would have to be staffed by an employee from the election supervisor’s office, which is a change from the current law allowing law enforcement officers to supervise and only requires it during early voting hours.

Under the measure, supervisors who don’t follow the rules related to drop boxes would have to pay a $25,000 fine.

DeSantis praised Florida’s 2020 election, but said that while things went smoothly in Florida, “we shouldn’t rest on our laurels.”

DeSantis said the new reforms will make the state’s election system “even better.”

The bill passed the Senate 23-17, with one Republican voting no, and 77-40 in the House along party lines.

Outside of elections, the bill would also give the governor power to appoint replacements for county or municipal elected officials who resign for office rather than holding special elections to replace those leaders.