In a nearly unanimous vote, the Tennessee state legislature has passed a new voting reform law aimed at securing absentee ballots, the Washington Examiner reports.
The state Senate voted 27–0 on Monday in favor of the bill, entitled the Tennessee Election Integrity Act. On Tuesday, the Tennessee House gave its stamp of approval by a vote of 92 to 1.
The bill now heads to Republican Gov. Bill Lee’s desk for approval.
Voter reform in the Volunteer State
While the name may make the measure sound wide-reaching, it actually includes just one notable provision; according to the Examiner, the Tennessee Election Integrity Act simply requires each county election commission to put a watermark on its absentee ballots to increase security.
The Tennessee Star explains that under the new legislation, “each county election commission must have their watermark approved by the state coordinator of elections.”
“None of the publicly available sample ballots will have the watermark,” the Star said. Electronic ballots would be exempt from the new rule.
According to the Star, the watermark will now be the final verification election officials need to verify a voter’s ballot, rather than their signature. If a ballot is not verified, the Star reports, an official must write “rejected” on the document and explain why.
All indications seem to suggest that Gov. Lee, like nearly all of the Tennessee legislature, is behind the measure.
More in the pipeline
Notably, the original draft of the Tennessee Election Integrity Act had nothing to do with watermarks.
Rather, the Examiner reports that the bill was initially meant to keep “dark money” out of elections by requiring funds from private individuals, businesses, and corporations to first be approved by elected state officials.
The Tennessee Star explained: “State-level funds could be approved by the speakers of both the House and Senate; county-level funds could be approved by either the secretary of state or one of his designees. However, if the funds were purposed for items like pens, hand sanitizer, or other ‘nominal items,’ then no approval would be necessary.”
The provision actually ended up in a separate bill, and it, too, recently passed both Tennessee’s House and Senate, and is now en route to Gov. Lee’s desk.