Hamilton County reports no problems with Dominion voting machines

Only one polling station in Tennessee in Hamilton County this month used voting machines from a manufacturer targeted by concerns about the integrity of the November 2020 election.

The county’s use of Dominion Voting Systems machines has brought in a spate of requests for voting data from residents and foreigners, said Scott Allen, Hamilton County Elections Administrator.

Despite outside concerns, both Hamilton County and the state elections bureau reported no problems with voting machines that would affect this month’s midterm elections. The Hamilton County Electoral Commission confirmed the results on Friday.

Allen said the influx of records requests placed an unexpected strain on polling staff, with requesters often looking for information outside of Hamilton County’s system.

“You have to fill out all these paperwork requests. At the same time, you have to prepare for an election — in this case, a big election in November,” Allen said in an interview on Tuesday. “That definitely cost us a lot of time.”

(READ MORE: Hamilton County Records Influx of 2020 Presidential Election-Related Records Requests)

There are four voting machine manufacturers certified for use in Tennessee, including Dominion. Hamilton County has used Dominion machines in 22 elections since 2014, election officials said, and has had no problems using them during that time.

Hamilton was the only county using Dominion in the state earlier this year after Williamson County reported tabulation issues with its Dominion machines in a 2021 city election. Votes were counted by hand instead, and a state review of the system eventually recommended the county shut down Dominion ahead of the 2022 election.

Williamson County began using Dominion machines in 2019, Electoral Superintendent Chad Gray said by phone Tuesday, using a different model than Hamilton County, where voters still hand-mark ballots. Following the state recommendation, the county leased machines from Election Systems & Software for the 2022 election. Election Systems machines are used by approximately one-fourth of Tennessee’s counties.

“I felt sorry for them in Hamilton County,” Gray said. “I was afraid that our situation might have affected them to some extent.”

Dominion systems won’t be an option if the Williamson County Electoral Commission has to decide which machines to use going forward, Gray said. But in Hamilton County, where current machines will be obsolete in a few years, officials are willing to use Dominion again as long as it remains certified after a Tennessee review scheduled for April.

“I think I’d say don’t fix it unless it’s broken,” longtime Elections Commissioner Jerry Summers said in a phone interview.

Election officials say requests for public records were first made after the November 2020 presidential election, when former President Donald Trump began his ongoing campaign to cast doubt on his loss to Democrat Joe Biden – concerns raised by states, the Courts and the US were rejected by the Electoral College, Congress and its own administration.

Hamilton County Electoral Commission Deputy Administrator Nate Foster said requests peaked in 2021, and the office received more than 100 that year.

(READ MORE: Records sent to each Tennessee county search for 2020 election dates)

“I’ve been in elections since 1998 and I’ve never seen so much interest,” Allen said.

Hamilton County has already received nine requests for information related to last week’s election, which begins shortly after the polls closed, Foster said in an interview Tuesday.

Meigs County resident Alan Fanning is part of a loose network of about 100 Tennesseeans who have sent requests for ballots and machine information to each of the state’s 95 counties. So far, Fanning said, they’ve gotten back six, although he said some counties have told applicants they have more time to collect documents after election work is complete.

Fanning said he was primarily concerned that the machines could be hacked to manipulate the results. His ideal solution would be to hand-count every paper ballot, a process that Foster estimates would require about 400 people working from open to closed on Election Day.

“Our voting systems are ridiculously insecure, it doesn’t matter if it’s Dominion or not,” Fanning said in a phone interview last week.

Many of the motions follow the same or similar patterns, county and state election officials said.

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In late September, Hamilton County received a subpoena seeking election information in an ongoing litigation between MyPillow owner Mike Lindell and Dominion.

In the most recent case, Dominion alleges Lindell defamed the company by claiming it manipulated machines to favor Joe Biden in the 2020 presidential election.

Lindell’s team sent subpoenas to more than 30 polling stations, court documents say, requesting copies of machine information, which Dominion has already objected to providing. The manufacturer asked a federal judge to block the subpoenas, saying they are seeking information that is confidential, proprietary and classified as critical to election infrastructure.

Justin Furrow, the electoral commission’s attorney, declined to comment Tuesday on the status of the subpoena in Hamilton County.

Contact Ellen Gerst at [email protected] or 423-757-6319. Follow her on Twitter @ellengerst.