Opinion: Bill requiring a recount of state's 2020 presidential, congressional votes is wholly unnecessary

AP File Photo/Erik Schelzig / State Sen. Janice Bowling, R-Tullahoma, shown consulting with Sen. Brian Kelsey, R-Germantown, during a Senate floor session in 2014, has filed a bill to audit the state's 2020 presidential and congressional elections.

In the midst of the charges and counter-charges about a stolen 2020 presidential election, we don't recall hearing much about ballot irregularities or miscounting or thievery in Tennessee.

Was that because the race in the Volunteer State was not much of a race or because balloting went smoothly? Probably both.

For those who don't remember, then-President Donald Trump won 60.7% of the vote, rolling up 92 of the state's 95 counties and earning some 700,000-plus votes more than now-President Joe Biden.

Of course, charges of illegalities continued for months in states where the vote was close, though no investigation ever showed a significant number of votes that would have changed the result in any state.

However, more than a year after the election, news was still being made. Last week, it was announced that only four dead people voted illegally in Georgia in 2020 rather than the 5,000 Trump alleged. And a December Associated Press analysis of every potential case of voter fraud in six battleground states showed fewer than 475 total fraudulent votes - not none, as Democrats alleged, but a minuscule number that would not have changed the result in any state.

To be sure, things happened in the 2020 presidential election that helped tipped the advantage to Biden, such as states changing laws at the last minute as to when absentee ballots could be counted and states that refused to allow the oversight of ballot counting as they normally do. But even if all things had been as they were before, Trump would not have triumphed.

But, wait, here comes Tennessee state Sen. Janice Bowling, R-Tullahoma, who has filed a bill for the 2022 session of the General Assembly to investigate the results of the state's 2020 presidential and congressional races.

The measure, the Verify Our Tennessee Elections (VOTE) Act (Senate Bill 1657), calls on the Tennessee secretary of state to do:

- "A forensic audit of each ballot, including absentee ballots, available for review, from the 2020 general election."

- "A complete canvassing of each ballot, including absentee ballots, for purposes of confirming the vote tallies for each race."

- "A thorough review of the chain of custody for ballots, including absentee ballots, ballot boxes, and voting machines and equipment."

The legislation also gives the secretary of state, in order to carry out the law, broad authority to:

- "Conduct the investigation in the manner most likely to yield accurate and reliable results, including the authority to examine witnesses and subpoena documents and records other than ballots relative to the investigation that the secretary of state reasonably believes will assist in carrying out the investigation."

- "Establish deadlines for purposes of producing ballots, documents, records, machines, equipment and other information."

It further stipulates that each county election commission and state and local election official must fully cooperate with the secretary of state and meet each deadline. It also warns that if the aforementioned officials do not cooperate with the investigation, the attorney general and reporter should seek a writ ordering the commission or official to comply. It requires the investigation should be completed by Dec. 31, 2022, and should be delivered to the governor and head of the state House and Senate no later than Jan. 31, 2023.

You know, the secretary of state needs something to do in 2022. Redistricted congressional districts, redistricted county and municipal districts, new precinct maps throughout the state, re-sized county commission and school board districts (as in Hamilton County), county primary and general elections, and federal primary and general elections aren't nearly enough.

We need a review of the 2020 election because ... why?

We mentioned the results of the presidential election - not exactly a close one. And the closest congressional vote was the re-election of U.S. Rep. Scott DesJarlais in the 4th District. He won by 33.3%.

Now we're all for election security, but we can't imagine asking Tennessee taxpayers to pay for such a review of the 2020 election that is guaranteed to produce the same results and, perhaps, like Georgia, also find four dead people voting or six people voting twice, or a statistically insignificant amount of fraud.

Tennessee Secretary of State Tre Hargett, in a post-2020 election column, said this: "Tennessee's 2020 elections were safe, secure and free of the controversy we saw in many other states. The credit for this belongs to the Tennessee General Assembly and the sensible state election laws they have passed. A critical part of our system is that elections are administered at the county level with oversight by a bipartisan county election commission. In tandem, these traits protect the integrity of the ballot box."

Thus, we see no need for a 2020 re-run. If, however, Bowling wanted to enshrine such election forensics, or ones that would provide periodic checks of votes and chains of custody going forward, we'd be interested in reading such a bill. But let's move ahead.