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State of Security: Tennessee

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Who's in charge: Secretary of State Tre Hargett; Election Coordinator Mark Goins

Russian operatives and companies indicted by Special Counsel Robert Mueller for interfering in U.S. democratic processes ran a Twitter account called “Tennessee GOP” during the 2016 presidential election.

But that didn’t stop Secretary of State Tre Hargett from shrugging off a report from the Center for American Progress that gave the state’s election security a failing grade.

Hargett, whose office oversees the elections, reasoned “that the main threat to elections is misinformation keeping voters home, not foreign interference,” the Tennessee ACLU said in a petition launched to compel Hargett to use $29 million remaining in federal Help America Vote Act (HAVA) funding to secure paper ballots as Rep. Jim Cooper had advocated.

In May, a DDoS attack temporarily shut down an election results website in Knox County during a primary election, in which WWE wrestler Glenn Jacobs, aka “Kane,” was running for mayor. While officials say no votes were changed, the incident highlighted the disruption that can be leveled against election and election-related systems.

The American Progress report dinged Tennessee for using DRE voting machines that don’t offer a paper record and for not conducting statewide post-election audits. The state came down on the plus side for requiring voting machines to be certified by the Election Assistance Commission and for mandating absentee ballots to be submitted by mail or in person rather than electronically.

Election officials have pointed out that the voting systems are not connected to the internet, ensuring a secure paper trail.

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