The Hamilton County Commission had a lengthy discussion about how over $350,000 of grant money would help the county during election season. The resolution read as follows:
“A Resolution authorizing the County Mayor on behalf of the Election Commission to accept a
CARES Act Grant in an amount up to $350,721.00 from the Tennessee Department of State for
assistance to the Election Commission to prevent, prepare for, and respond to the coronavirus
and to amend the FY21 revenue and expense budgets each by $350,721.00.“
Commissioner Warren Mackey had election commission administrator Kerry Steelman on the line to explain what the grants would address and how the money would be used.
He said both grants are coming from the state. The first grant is used to “enhance the security of election offices.” For Hamilton County, this would mean both physical security and cybersecurity.
“We will be able to create a secure entrance,” Mr. Steelman said about different recommendations the Sheriff’s Office had about enhancing security. “The second will be a fund allocated to improve video surveillance at the facility. The equipment here at the election commission has not been updated since the building was built in 2006.”
Mr. Steelman said the other grant comes through the CARES Act, and it helps election officials “adapt” to conditions brought about by COVID-19. These unforeseen conditions include the need for social distancing while waiting in line.
“Upon certification of the August primary election, we have 124,000 in expenses we are preparing to submit to the state for reimbursement. This would also be in addition to election equipment we purchased earlier in the year to beat the increase in demand for early voting.”
Commissioner Tim Boyd asked Mr. Steelman about what Hamilton County is doing to prevent people from voting twice, once as an early voter and then again in the normal election. Mr. Steelman said Hamilton County’s system makes it so that once a voter casts an early ballot, the system will make it impossible for that person to vote again.
“On election date, our poll books have been printed after early voting,” Mr. Steelman said, “so anyone who voted early and everyone who has had an absentee ballot received will be on the pollbook, but it will be noted they early voted or that they have returned their absentee ballot.”
He also told Commissioner Boyd that there is no way for someone to request an absentee ballot and then show up and vote like a regular voter.
“When they show up on election day, the only way they could vote would be by provisional ballot. That’s the only way,” Mr. Steelman said. “They are marked as having received an absentee ballot.”
Mr. Steelman said Hamilton County’s cybersecurity is at a satisfactory level, when asked by Commissioner Greg Martin. He said the money will be used strictly for enhancing physical security.