KINGSPORT, Tenn. (WJHL) – With COVID-19 concerns changing so many things in 2020, the United States Postal Service and local election officials say voting shouldn’t be one.
Absentee ballots will begin arriving in the mail later this week for those voters who applied. In Sullivan County, Administrator of Elections Jason Booher is urging those who haven’t applied yet, and qualify, to do so sooner rather than later.
“It’s like telling a quarterback in football, ‘here’s your playbook, memorize it,’ and then in the middle of the game say, ‘throw that playbook out, and start over with a whole new one,’ and you don’t even know what it it,” he told News Channel 11’s Bianca Marais.
That’s election season during the COVID-19 pandemic, but Booher is confident that all ballots will be cast in time if everyone works together. However, social media, he said, is making the election difficult on his staff.
“But because of the misinformation and concerns and the, you know, ‘what’s the post office doing or not doing, or, ‘what are the parties doing or not doing,’ that kind of stuff is creating some havoc for us,” Booher told News Channel 11’s Bianca Marais.
The USPS is urging absentee voters, to plan ahead with these mailers.
Tad Kelley with USPS Corporate Communication sent the following statement to News Channel 11:
“The intention of the mailer was to send a single set of recommendations that provided general guidance allowing voters who choose mail-in voting to do so successfully, regardless of where they live and where they vote. Each state has its own approaches, rules, and deadlines and we provide the following link for voters to determine their local relevant information: usps.com/votinginfo. Our mailer was intended to be general all-purpose guidance on the use of the mail, and not guidance on state rules.”USPS
He also sent the following recommendations to those considering mail-in voting:
“Customers who opt to vote through the U.S. Mail must understand their local jurisdiction’s requirements for timely submission of mail-in ballots. In order to allow sufficient time for voters to receive, complete and return ballots via the mail, and to facilitate timely receipt of completed ballots by election officials, the Postal Service strongly recommends that jurisdictions immediately communicate and advise voters to request ballots at the earliest point allowable but no later than 15 days prior to Election Day. The Postal Service further recommends that domestic, non-military voters mail their ballots at least one week prior to Election Day to allow for timely receipt by election officials. The Postal Service also recommends that voters contact their local election officials for information about deadlines and other requirements.”USPS
Booher explained that absentee voting has spiked in the 2020 elections, due to COVID-19 concerns, but for the November elections, “fear of the coronavirus” is no longer a valid reason to vote by mail in Tennessee.
“But if you have an underlying condition, as defined by the cdc, that you meet the requirement of illness because of your vulnerability to covid-19, and therefore, you can request a ballot under the ‘illness’ provision,” Booher said.
He doesn’t think it would be an issue locally since out of the 26,000 in the August election, just over 2,000 were by mail.
“If you know you’re going to vote by mail, go ahead and submit that request now,” he urged.
You can still register to vote and fill out a mail-in voting application. The deadline to request a ballot by mail is October 27.
For more information about absentee voting in November, click HERE.