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TN Braces for Absentee-, Early-Voter Surge in Aug. 6 Primary

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Tennessee ranks 40th in the nation for voter registration. (Adobe Stock)
Tennessee ranks 40th in the nation for voter registration. (Adobe Stock)
July 24, 2020

NASHVILLE, Tenn. - The last day to request an absentee ballot is Thursday, July 30, for Tennesseans wishing to avoid the polls on August 6, the state's Democratic primary election day. Voting-rights advocates say residents should first verify they are eligible to vote by mail before they start the process.

Charlane Oliver, founder of the group Equity Alliance, points out that Tennessee has only expanded vote-by-mail to registered voters who have voted before.

"If you are a first-time voter, such as someone who is in college, you may have never voted before," says Oliver. "Or if you're new to Tennessee and just moved here, you are ineligible, unfortunately, to request an absentee ballot. So that's very important to know."

She notes that postage stamps are required in order to mail absentee ballots back to the election commission. In-person early voting continues through August 1.

To find early voting poll hours and locations, residents must contact their local county election commission office.

So far, the Secretary of State's office is reporting more than 90,000 residents have cast their ballots either through in-person early voting or by mail, much higher than in previous elections.

Oliver believes that despite the hardship caused by the novel coronavirus, it's critical for communities to stay engaged on the issues and find a way to cast their ballot.

"And I hope during this pandemic, during this time when we're seeing massive layoffs, seeing how people's health care is connected to their jobs, and how these policies are made by policy makers, and the policymakers are elected by the people," says Oliver.

The Equity Alliance has developed a nonpartisan 2020 Tennessee Voter Guide to help residents make informed decisions when voting in this year's elections. Guides are available for Memphis, Nashville and Chattanooga.

In addition, the free phone app 'GoVoteTN' allows voters to find their Election Day polling locations and view sample ballots.

Nadia Ramlagan, Public News Service - TN