PHOTO: Beginning with the Oct. 22 city of Franklin election, voters will be using the Image Cast X with the Image Cast Precinct Optical Scanner. / Photo submitted
By JOHN McBRYDE
When the Franklin municipal election rolls around in October, some voters may do a double-take as they enter their polling place.
Gone will be the electronic voting devices the Williamson County Election Commission has used since 2006, and in their place will be a new hybrid paper ballot-marking device with an optical scanner. The commission has purchased 300 paper-marking devices and 50 scanners that will be completely in place for the 2020 election cycle, and rolled out for the Oct. 22 Franklin election.
“It’s going to be a little different for our voters,” said Chad Gray, administrator of elections. “They’re not used to handling a paper ballot. We want people to kind of ease into this, and we think the Franklin election will be a good way to do it.
“It’s more of a low-key election, so we think voters can kind of see how this works and it won’t be too much of a stressful environment for voting. I don’t think there’s going to be hordes of people turning out for this election. But you never know.”
At a cost of $1.4 million, with $470,000 coming from the state of Tennessee through Help America Vote Act funds earmarked for voting machine acquisitions, the county purchased the new voting machines and equipment from Denver-based Dominion Voting Systems. The equipment brand is the Image Cast X with the Image Cast Precinct Optical Scanner.
Gray said several other counties across Tennessee have gone or are going to the paper ballot devices as a more secure way for residents to cast their votes.
“The trend now is to have a paper component to voting,” he said. “There’s a lot of voter lack of confidence in electronic voting systems, so this is kind of the direction voting is going in in the United States right now. Our commission decided earlier this year they wanted to proceed with this ballot marking device.”
Voting machine demonstration sessions for voters to view and use the new equipment will take place Sept. 23 at a Franklin candidates forum, according to Gray, and he added that he plans to have an open house of sorts another day that week at the Election Commission office.
“We are looking forward to the opportunity to implement this new voting equipment for the residents of our county in the next few months, and we want each and every voter to have confidence in their ballots when they are cast,” he said.