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Early Voting Encouraged By State Election Officials

As the state enters the final days of the primary-election early-voting period, state election officials are urging Tennessee voters to get down to the polls early to avoid long wait times on Aug. 7.

Tennessee Secretary of State Tre Hargett and State Election Coordinator Mark Goins spoke on a conference call Wednesday to reporters from around the state about the extra long ballots for this election period.

“As we’ve emphasized before, this is the longest, or at least one of the longest ballots in Tennessee history,” Hargett told reporters, and added that the estimated time to complete a full ballot is about five to eight minutes.

The “added dynamic” contributing to the exceptional length of this year’s ballots are the inclusion of the retention questions for the 23 state appellate and Supreme Court judges, Hargett said.

According to Hargett, 368,111 people have so far participated in early voting, which is a 10 percent increase over the turnout for the August 2010 election.

Hargett is urging people to vote early to limit the lines on election day to make the day go smoother for state and local elections officials. Shorter lines of voters on election day means the polls close earlier, which means election commissions will be able to get the results out quicker, he said.

“We just want to encourage if people know how they’re going to vote, we want them to go ahead and take advantage of early voting,” Hargett said. “Certainly if they’re not ready to cast their vote, they’re certainly entitled to do it on election day, and we encourage them to do so.”

However, despite the longer ballots, Goins said that he had not heard of any problems with lengthy early voting times around the state so far, and that things appear “to be moving pretty smoothly.”

“People are not experiencing long lines during early voting. And obviously the numbers bear out that more people are taking advantage of it four years ago,” Goins said.

In the August elections of 2010, voter turnout was at 29 percent, Hargett said, and added that voter turnout in August of 2012 was “slightly under 20 percent.” In the November 2012 general election turnout  was “just under 62 percent,” the secretary of state said.