Hamilton County reports no problems with Dominion voting machines

Only one of Tennessee’s 95 counties uses Dominion voting machines

Staff Photo by Ellen Gerst / Hamilton County Election Administrators Scott Allen and Nate Foster explain Tuesday how the county's Dominion voting system works.

Just one Tennessee election office, in Hamilton County, used voting machines this month from a manufacturer that has been targeted by concerns over the integrity of the November 2020 elections.

Using machines made by Dominion Voting Systems has brought the county a flood of records requests for election data from locals and out-of-staters alike, Hamilton County Election Administrator Scott Allen said.

Despite outside concerns, both Hamilton County and the state election office reported no voting machine issues affecting this month's midterm elections. The Hamilton County Election Commission certified the results Friday.

Allen said the influx of records requests placed an unexpected burden on elections staff, and requesters were often looking for information that doesn't pertain to Hamilton County's system.

"You're having to fill all these records requests. At the same time, you're having to prepare for an election -- in this case, a big November election," Allen said in a Tuesday interview. "So that's definitely taken a lot of our time."

(READ MORE: Hamilton County sees influx of records requests related to 2020 presidential election)

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 not had any issues with them during that time.

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

Williamson County began using Dominion machines in 2019, Election Administrator Chad Gray said by phone on Tuesday, and was using a different model than Hamilton County, where voters still mark ballots by hand. After the state's recommendation, the county leased machines made by Election Systems & Software for the 2022 elections. Election Systems machines are used by roughly a quarter of Tennessee counties.

"I felt bad for them in Hamilton County," Gray said. "I was afraid our situation may have affected them to some degree."

Dominion systems won't be an option when the Williamson County Election Commission must decide which machines to use going forward, Gray said. But in Hamilton County, where current machines are set to age out within a couple of years, officials are open to using Dominion again as long as it stays certified in Tennessee following a review set for April.

"I guess I would say, don't fix it if it ain't broken," longtime Election Commissioner Jerry Summers in a phone interview.

Election officials say public records requests started coming in after the November 2020 presidential election, as former President Donald Trump began his ongoing campaign to cast doubt on his loss to Democrat Joe Biden -- concerns that have been rejected by the states, the courts, the Electoral College, Congress and his own administration.

Hamilton County Election Commission Assistant Administrator Nate Foster said the requests reached their peak in 2021, and the office received more than 100 this year.

(READ MORE: Records requests sent to every Tennessee county seek 2020 election data)

"I've been in elections since 1998 and have never seen this amount of interest," Allen said.

Hamilton County has already received nine requests for information related to last week's election, starting soon after polls closed, Foster said in a Tuesday interview.

Alan Fanning, a Meigs County resident, is part of a loose network of about 100 Tennesseeans who have sent requests for vote records and machine information to each of the state's 95 counties. So far, Fanning said, they've received six back, though he said some counties told requesters they would have more time to gather documents after election work was done.

Fanning said he's primarily concerned the machines can be hacked to tamper with results. His ideal solution would be hand-counting every paper ballot, a process Foster estimated would require around 400 people working open to close on Election Day.

"Our election 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 requests follow the same or similar templates, county and state elections officials said.

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

In the latest case, Dominion is alleging Lindell defamed the company by claiming it had rigged machines to favor Joe Biden in the 2020 presidential election.

Lindell's team sent subpoenas to more than 30 elections offices, court documents state, requesting copies of machine information that Dominion 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 attorney representing the election commission, declined to comment on the status of the subpoena in Hamilton County on Tuesday.

Contact Ellen Gerst at egerst@timesfreepress.com or 423-757-6319. Follow her on Twitter @ellengerst.