JOHNSON CITY, Tenn. (WJHL) – Tennessee’s secretary of state isn’t expecting the usual swift resolution to this year’s presidential election outcome.
Tre Hargett said Monday Tennessee’s mail-in voting numbers are likely to be much higher than normal. And some states, he said, accept ballots postmarked as late as election day.
“I don’t think that we’re going to know the results on that day (Nov. 3) and I think that we as a nation need to understand that we would rather get those results right than (get them) fast,” Hargett said.
Visiting the Johnson City Public Library, where he presented a $6,974 technology grant, Hargett said if the nation doesn’t know who the next president will be election night, it won’t be a sign “something nefarious (has) occurred.”
“People should be patient and understand that just because we may go to bed on election night without the final results, that doesn’t necessarily mean those results are less valid.”
He said he expects Tennessee’s own election workers to be opening a lot of ballots come election day. He projects 10 to 12 percent of total votes cast will be mail-in (absentee) — far more than the 2 percent that mail in votes typically comprise of the total. Hargett said large number of absentee requests are coming in across the state, and added that 128,000 absentee votes — out of just more than 1 million cast — were processed in August’s primary.
“It wouldn’t surprise me to honestly see, you know, 250-300,000 people decide to cast absentee ballots. I think a lot of it’s going to be contingent on what we’re looking at pandemic-wise as we approach that date.”
Hargett said he’s confident the state’s 95 election administrators will find the extra poll workers that will be needed with so much manual envelope-opening to do.
Mailed ballots can be opened beginning when the polls open on election day. Workers open them, verify signatures and then scan the ballot into a machine. In Tennessee, mail-in ballots must be received by election day, not just postmarked by that date.
While he said people should “find what they’re most comfortable with and cast their vote that way,” Hargett did say in-person is the best way to guarantee one’s vote is counted — thanks in part to the vagaries of the postal system.
“We have no control over how long it takes to get to you, we have no control over how long you take to cast that vote, and then we have no control long it takes to get back to us,” he said.
That said, Hargett said Tennessee he’s confident election administrators “did a great job” counting absentee ballots in August. Absentee ballots can be requested until seven days before the Nov. 3 election.
Those who vote in person — either early (Oct. 14-Oct. 29) or Nov. 3 — won’t have to worry about health and safety, Hargett said.
Election officials did well in August “creating a safe, secure and clean environment for people to cast their in-person vote,” he said.
It’s been an unprecedented election year due to COVID-19, Hargett said — nationally and statewide. “All I can do is try and take control of the things we can control here in our state, work with all 95 counties.”