TN in 20th Year of Early Voting

The number of Tennesseans who take advantage of early voting has in general trended upwards in the 20 years the state has offered a longer time-frame for voters cast their ballots.

“Turnout and early voting obviously vary a lot depending on the type of election and who’s on the ballot and a number of other factors, but just historically we’ve seen early voting become more popular with people, and it seems like more people are comfortable with it now than perhaps were in the past,” Blake Fontenay, spokesman for the Secretary’s office, told TNReport Wednesday.

And the numbers from the last four primary elections tend to support that claim.  In August of 2008, early voter turnout was 206,174, and 533,421 in 2010. Early voter turnout dipped in 2012 to 316,686, before jumping back up to 564,733 in 2014.

In terms of trends within the three weeks of early-voting, most people vote in the first couple of days and the last couple of days, with “sort of a lull” in the middle, Fontenay said.

More people voting early can help make election-day lines shorter, which “just makes it easier for everyone,” he added.

In addition to encouraging voters to get out to the polls earlier, the secretary of state’s office is reminding voters to bring valid photo identification.

But Fontenay added that elections officials aren’t trying to push people to vote before they are ready.  There’s always the “opportunity for revelations that could influence someone’s vote” during the run-up to the wrap-up of the campaign season on general election day. Voters are encouraged to take all the time they need until Nov. 4 to learn more about the candidates and the issues, he said.

“That’s a decision for each individual voter to make,” Fontenay said. “We’re not suggesting that nobody should vote on election day — but for those that feel comfortable and are ready with their decisions, we certainly encourage that.”

Early voting, which was first introduced to the Volunteer State election process in 1994, kicked off on Oct. 15 and runs through Oct. 30. Election day is Nov. 4. Voters can cast early ballots at county election commission headquarters, and information about ballot box locations and hours can be found on the state’s elections website or its new smartphone app: GoVoteTN.