Voting in Tennessee has never been easier; just do it

Published 3:17 pm Tuesday, October 13, 2020

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Early voting begins today in Tennessee, and it’s never been easier to vote.
National news stories earlier this fall and summer about problems with the U.S. Postal Service and exaggerated claims of widespread voter fraud should not obscure the fact that early voting in Tennessee is easy. You may have to stand in line for a few minutes, but you need to do it and vote!
Many have chosen to vote by absentee ballot, others will vote early. And, many will wait until Election Day, Nov. 3, and show up at the polls to vote. Regardless of whether you vote early or wait until Election Day, plan to bring a mask and be mindful of social distancing. Traditionally, the lines during a presidential election are the longest ever. It’s not unusual to have to wait, and voters need to be prepared to wait.
Tennessee is among states permitting early voting. Beginning today and continuing until Oct. 29 you can go to your local Election Commission office and cast a ballot in advance of Election Day. The advantage is obvious. You don’t have to go to the polls with hundreds of other voters while trying to avoid being infected with COVID-19. Although social distancing and other safety protocols will be in place, some people just might not feel comfortable with the traditional option of in-person voting on Election Day.
Early voting offers Tennesseans the flexibility of evening and Saturday hours. The first and last days of early voting are normally peak days. Voters looking to avoid the busiest days of early voting should plan to vote on days other than the first and last day of early voting.
Voters need to bring valid (may or may not be current) photo identification to the polls. A Tennessee driver license or photo ID issued by the Tennessee Department of Safety and Homeland Security, Tennessee state government or the federal government are acceptable even if they are expired. College student IDs are not acceptable.
During these highly polarized times, many voices are questioning the integrity and conduct of our elections. Pay them little heed. Yes, elections are imperfect: They are run by and for humans, after all. But we are confident state and local officials are prepared.
Also, candidates and their representatives are reminded of the rules regarding polling places. Tennessee state law requires polling locations and the area within a 100-foot boundary surrounding each entrance to remain campaign-free zones. This includes the display or distribution of campaign materials and the solicitation of votes for or against any person, party or question on the ballot in these areas. Voters wearing campaign-related clothing or paraphernalia will not be allowed within the 100-foot boundary.
The main problem at this point likely will be a delay in the state’s full, unofficial results: a direct result of the huge numbers of absentee ballots being cast by mail and state restrictions on how early those ballots can be opened and counted. Full, unofficial results likely won’t be available until Wednesday rather than election night.
Voting is one of your most important rights as an American citizen. It’s an opportunity for your voice to be heard. Never ever take this right for granted. Regardless of whether you vote an absentee ballot, vote early, or wait until Election Day to cast your ballot. Just do it!

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