Ballot integrity or voter suppression? GOP pushes post-Trump election laws for Tennessee

Staff photo by C.B. Schmelter / Election Official Kelly Beltinck, center, and Election Deputy David Torbett work on unloading a truck while setting up for early voting at the Brainerd Youth and Family Development Center on Monday, Oct. 12, 2020 in Chattanooga, Tenn. Early voting begins on Wednesday, Oct. 14 and until Thursday, Oct. 29.

After a divisive presidential election in which then-President Donald Trump unsuccessfully raised the specter of widespread voter fraud - rejected by the states, the courts, his own administration and Congress amid an insurrection by Trump supporters - GOP stalwarts in Nashville are pushing forward with crackdowns on what they still perceive as a problem.

Republican state Sen. Janice Bowling of Tullahoma has introduced a bill that would abolish early voting, end the use of voting machines and require watermarked paper ballots hand-marked by voters.

"In-person early voting is a relatively recent phenomenon, and it's led to mischief in many states," she said in an interview.

Two other GOP lawmakers, Sen. Frank Niceley of Strawberry Plains and Rep. Susan Lynn of Mount Juliet, introduced a bill to fingerprint all voters.

These are far from the only voting-related bills before the General Assembly, but they are among the most stringent.