TRI-CITIES, Tenn. (WJHL) As early voting for the August primary is underway, people are hitting the polls in near-record numbers.
In the race there is a lot on the line for Tennesseans, with both a U.S. congressional seat up for grabs and a U.S. Senate seat.
Amid the coronavirus pandemic, heading to the polls this year looks different. Polling locations are encouraging masks, enforcing social distancing and ramping up cleaning efforts.
“When you come to vote you will experience an environment that is much safer and more controlled than most, if not all, retail establishments and any restaurant you may have eaten at,” said Sullivan County Election Administrator Jason Booher.
This year, early voting might be more important now than ever when you consider social distancing, as it provides much less traffic than election day.
However, absentee voting by mail is up across Tennessee now that anyone can elect to do so in light of coronavirus concerns.
“The majority of voters who are applying for absentee by mail ballots, they already qualified. They are over the age of 60. Of course we know with COVID-19 the older you are, the more vulnerable you are,” said Booher.
In order to absentee vote you must submit the written form by mail, fax or email to your county election commission. The deadline is July 30th. There is one exception, first-time voters cannot vote absentee, they must vote in-person.
All in all, election officials across Northeast Tennessee agree: voter turnout is high.
“We are actually seeing a near record turnout for August early voting which is surprising and a good surprise, we want people to get out and vote,” said Booher. “We have only had our congressional seat open 3 times prior to this. Voters are gonna be choosing who they want to represent them in the Republican primary for congress and it’s a big decision for them as they come in and vote.”
Tennessee residents have until August 1 to early vote in the primary; election day is August 6.
For early voting, voters can choose any polling precinct in their county. Just remember to bring a government-issued photo ID and a mask.