National Voter Registration Day, what lies ahead

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JOHNSON CITY, Tenn. (WJHL) – Tuesday marked National Voter Registration Day. With many events across the region set to register eligible voters, many proved less fruitful than expected. This could be a frightening trend.

ETSU Votes hosted a voter registration event Tuesday at the Basler Center for Physical Activity, on the campus of East Tennessee State University. ETSU Votes is a voter registration and voter engagement civic organization at the university, making sure students are involved in elections.

“Usually the university has a number that they want to head just in terms of the new students that we register. This year, that’s kind of been waived in lieu of COVID because we don’t get hard numbers back from online registrations, we only get it back from physical, and this year we’re leaning a little bit more to the online area,” Seth Manning of ETSU Votes told News Channel 11’s Bianca Marais. “It’s just that we have to find other mediums to reach people, whether that it Zoom, whether that is through different online forums, you know, we’ve really worked to make sure that faculty get out the word to their students because that’s really the main point of contact this semester for so many students who are off-campus.”

News Channel 11’s Bianca Marais asked several people near the voter registration whether they were registered to vote. Many said they were already registered, with a handful saying they had no interest in registering.

But even on a beautiful autumn day, not many folks came out to register to vote across the region. Perhaps indicative of a national trend.

Nationally, according to data from the U.S. Census Bureau, about 60 percent of the population older than 18, has registered to vote.

Data from the Tennessee Secretary of State and the U.S. Census Bureau indicate Northeast Tennessee county populations who might be eligible but haven’t registered to vote yet:

Carter – 13,138
Greene – 16,715
Hawkins – 13,743
Johnson – 3,772
Sullivan – 37,846
Unicoi – 4,114
Washington – 30,792

“The first step to making your voice heard on Election Day is registering to vote. It’s never been easier for Tennesseans to register to vote or update their registration with our online voter registration system. Voting is the most fundamental way to hold our government accountable.  If you don’t vote, you simply hand over the reins of power to those who do cast a ballot.”

Secretary Tre Hargett

It’s important to note, Tennessee currently has a record number of registered voters totaling 4,342,431. 

One voter who has been registered to vote in Tennessee since 1972, is Retired ETSU Professor Ken Mijeski.

“Don’t wait until it’s too late. This is an important election, very important election and we need to get out and register to vote immediately,” Mijeski told News Channel 11’s Bianca Marais. “If you’re sick, and you need to vote by absentee ballot, it’s even more important. You have to register to vote and request an absentee ballot from the local election office.”

Facebook estimated that it has helped register about 2.5 million people so far this year through its many platforms. The social media platform hopes to register a total of four million people.

“Really this is the closing stretch, so it does not take much time at all, you can get registered through the online form in about 5-10 minutes, physical form, again, 5-10 minutes, so it’s really something that’s easy to do, you can do that in a socially-distanced fashion, of course, which I think a lot of people are concerned about,” Manning added. “We’re really relying on kind of our state partners and also just a bunch of different social media platforms to really get our numbers up.”

If you’d like to register to vote in Tennessee, click HERE.

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