Two state lawmakers have filed a bill to allow state and local election commissions to use fingerprints to verify voter identity at the polls.
House Bill 1239, by Mt. Juliet Republican Rep. Susan Lynn and Republican Sen. Frank Niceley of Strawberry Plains, would authorize election commissions to use existing fingerprint databases to verify the identity of voters.
“We've been identifying people with fingerprints obviously for a very long time. There's nothing unusual about it," Lynn said. "In order to provide voters with more confidence that each person cast their ballot, why not open it up and allow fingerprint registries to be used?”
Lynn said she decided to introduce the bill after the presidential election last fall.
“In this past national election, there was a lot of questions about identifying voters, you know some people showed up at the poll and someone had already voted their ballot,” Lynn told Main Street Nashville in an interview.
While Lynn cited concerns with voting irregularities in Georgia, her concern over voter fraud originated with an incident she reported a decade ago to the Tennessee Bureau of Investigation.
“Literally nothing happened. Nothing at all,” Lynn said.
House Bill 1239 does not include fingerprinting voters at voter registration, but Lynn considers this bill a first step.
“Right now, the thought is to just open it up to allow that verification in the event that there is a bona fide question,” Lynn said. “The next step might be taking fingerprints when we register voters.
“The thought is, if we took a fingerprint when we registered voters, we would, in the event of any confusion between has someone already voted or have they not voted, we would be able to then identify the voter and make sure that that ballot was cast by that voter.”
The bill as written does not specify that fingerprint identification is limited to instances in which there are questions over a voter’s identity, nor does it specify how exactly the fingerprints would be used.
Lynn said she does not believe the bill would deter people from voting, but will improve voter confidence while casting their ballot.
“We can't sit on our laurels and think we have a perfect system in Tennessee,” Lynn said. “Obviously, we have a very good system, other states look to us. ... But do we have a perfect system? No, we don't. And so any tools that can be at our disposal, it might be a good idea to use those tools.”