Tri-Cities’ counties see increase in absentee ballots, but don’t expect delay in Thursday’s results

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ERWIN, Tenn. (WJHL) — Counties around the region will be spending more time than normal Thursday evening counting absentee ballots. Several counties say their absentee ballot requests doubled or tripled. Other counties like Washington sending out thousands.

In Unicoi county alone, the number of absentee ballots tripled in the past few weeks with a little over 300 requests.

“Typically for an August primary, we have a little less than a hundred,” said Sarah Fain, Unicoi County’s election administrator. “It was a big increase for us.”

Other counties also reported spikes in absentee ballots. Hawkins County had double the requests at 546. Washington County had 3,620 and Sullivan County had 2,875.

But election administrator’s insist they don’t expect a delay on results election night.

“We’re making sure that the counts match and that all of that goes through,” Fain said. “Our hope is to have those tallied up shortly after the polls close so that we can release those numbers about the same time we start releasing precinct numbers.”

Election officials say security around absentee votes is tight, with ballots double-checked and placed in locked boxes until it’s time to count the votes.

“One lock is from the Democratic commissioner, one lock is with the Republican commissioner. Those commissioners keep the locks the entire time, they’re never in my office,” said Fain. “They have to come to the location where we’re counting the ballots on election night to open them together.”

Voters worried their absentee ballot might have been lost can track them on the state’s website. Voters can also cast a provisional ballot on election day to make sure their voice is heard.

“They’re going to go to the location that they’re registered at, vote a paper ballot there. Then, when it comes back on election night, we’ll check and see if the paper ballot through the mail came,” said Fain. “And if it didn’t, we will count their provisional ballot that was cast at the polling place.”

If the election commission does not receive a mail-in ballot by Thursday, Aug. 6th, it won’t be accepted and the office will notify the voter.

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