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How to Vote in Tennessee's 2020 Election: What You Need to Know

En Espanol | Many states have opened absentee voting to all voters, so they can safely cast a ballot from home during the coronavirus pandemic. But in Tennessee the issue has dragged on in the courts:

  • The state Supreme Court ruled in August that voters cannot use the pandemic as an excuse to cast an absentee ballot in November unless they either have a condition that makes them particularly vulnerable to the coronavirus or care for someone who is vulnerable. No-excuse absentee ballots are nonetheless available to residents age 60 and older.
  • Early in-person voting sites will be open from Oct. 14 to 29.
  • For those who do go to the polls, the state has announced plans to help keep election officials and voters safe, including the use of plexiglass barriers and measures to minimize contact with voting machines.
A man leaves a building after voting absentee in an election.
ANDREW CABALLERO-REYNOLDS/AFP via Getty Images

Here's what else you need to know:

How do I register to vote?

Register online at the secretary of state's website or download and print a registration application to mail in or hand deliver to your county election commission office. You can also pick up an application at that office, at county clerk’s offices, public libraries and some other government buildings, during normal business hours.

Or you can register in person at your county election commission office or while conducting a transaction at state driver services centers, with the WIC program and with some other government agencies, though some offices are operating on limited schedules during the pandemic. You must register by Oct. 5 to vote in the Nov. 3 general election.

How can I get an absentee ballot? Are there important deadlines?

Request an absentee ballot online by downloading the absentee ballot request form from the secretary of state's website and emailing, mailing or faxing it to your county election commission office. Or pick one up from your county election commission. You must submit the request form by Oct. 27. The mail-in ballot must be received by the time the polls close on Nov. 3, Election Day.

How do I know my absentee ballot is secure?

Tennessee election officials will compare the voter signature on each ballot to the person's signature on file. If someone else must sign for the voter, a witness signature is needed.

When is Election Day? When are polls open?

Tuesday, Nov. 3. Poll hours vary by county, with Central time zone locations closing at 7 p.m. and Eastern time zone sites closing at 8 p.m.

Can I vote in person before Election Day?

Early in-person voting is available for all voters from Oct. 14 to 29. Find early voting locations on the secretary of state's website.

What form of identification do I need to vote?

Voters who cast their ballot in person must have a photo ID issued by Tennessee or the federal government, such as a Tennessee driver’s license, Tennessee-issued ID card, U.S. passport or military ID. A list of acceptable identification is on the secretary of state's website. Absentee voters don't need an ID.

What is being done to make polling places safe from coronavirus?

In addition to plexiglass barriers to minimize person-to-person contact and steps to minimize contact with voting machines, polling places plan to have masks for poll workers and to practice social distancing. Tennessee is actively recruiting more poll workers to help stage a safe and secure election, promising volunteers personal protective equipment and training.

Will I be able to vote in the same place as I always have?

Maybe. Check your polling place location at the secretary of state's website.

What are the key races in my state?

  • U.S. President
  • U.S. Senate, to replace retiring U.S. Sen. Lamar Alexander (R)
  • U.S. House: all 9 seats

Voting rules and procedures may change before Election Day. We’ll update this story if they do, so bookmark this and check back.

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AARP is urging older Americans to ask the candidates 5 key questions:

  • Just over half of all older Social Security beneficiaries rely on the program for at least 50 percent of their income. If elected, how will you ensure that current and future Social Security benefits are not cut as part of deficit reduction?
  • Half of the people with traditional Medicare spend at least a sixth of their income on health care. If elected, how will you protect Medicare from benefit cuts, as well as lower health care costs and ensure seniors continue receiving the affordable health care they have earned?
  • COVID-19 has caused death and suffering for too many older Americans who require long-term care. If elected, how will you make sure seniors can access safe and affordable long-term care at home, as well as in facilities like nursing homes and assisted living?

Also of Interest

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