Absentee voting in Tennessee is complicated and difficult-- It's time to plan ahead

Mar 15, 2022 at 09:00 am by Chloe Cerutti

As one who has enjoyed and appreciated the convenience and ease of voting by mail in Washington State, let there be no mistake here, I’m a strong advocate and proponent for the efficacy of nationwide absentee balloting.  Certainly the longstanding success and safety of all-mail elections in the states of Washington and Oregon are testimonials to how well that system works for the following reasons:

  1. It’s more convenient for voters 
  2. It’s easier for election officials to manage
  3. It’s democratic                                
  4. It’s cost-effective
  5. It allows for better-informed voters by providing them with more time to study the ballot and the candidates. 

And given the tremendous increase in voter participation in 2020, largely due to widespread mail-in balloting, it’s obvious that this voting method is preferred by a majority of Americans.   As a result, the states of California, Colorado, Hawaii, Nevada, New Jersey (temporarily), Utah, Vermont, and Washington DC (temporarily) have joined the list of those states sending mail-in ballots to all their eligible voters.   Nevertheless, across the country those lawmakers unhappy with the results of the 2020 election are seeking to ensure a different outcome in 2022 by undermining the sanctity and integrity of our electoral systems by means of gerrymandering and the passage of increasingly restrictive and undemocratic voting laws.   Sadly, Tennessee is no exception.     

Indeed, Tennessee’s complicated and cumbersome By-Mail Voting requirements and regulations seem designed to serve more as deterrent than as a practical and convenient alternative to in-person voting.  Online information available is ambiguous, incomplete, and sometimes contradictory.   One little-known fact is that unless you register at the Rutherford County Election Commission, first-time voters CANNOT vote absentee.   And many absentee voters may be unaware that they’ll have to make vote-by-mail application before EACH and EVERY election during the year, but they can do so no more than 90 days before said election and no later than 7 days thereto.   Even those individuals with a physician’s letter attesting to a physical illness and/or disability must provide the Election Commission with written follow-up confirmation of their wish or need to vote absentee for each election date in 2022.                 

 As to concerns about gathering in locations which might increase the threat of COVID infection, that risk  remains far less for those in reasonably good health who are fully vaccinated, masked, and engaging in social distancing.  And certainly the availability of 20 days early voting at any of Rutherford County’s nine (9) optional vote centers has historically helped reduce overcrowding and long waits at most polling places.  Further making a case for voting in person is the fact that many absentee voters in Georgia’s 2020 election were disenfranchised when their ballots arrived late and were disallowed.  To date, thanks to COVID and Louis DeJoy’s attempts to dismantle our postal system, mail service deliveries remain unreliable.       

Whether in-person or absentee, I strongly urge everyone to make their choices and voices heard at election time.   For more information as to how, when and where to vote, go online to GOVOTETN.COM where you can also register, confirm your voter status, and learn in greater detail about Tennessee’s onerous Absentee Voter laws.   So until such time as voting by mail is made readily available to all eligible Tennesseans or I’m no longer able to totter into a voting booth; I’ll make sure that my vote counts by early voting for those candidates committed to respecting and protecting the health, well-being and voting rights of We the People.       

Chloe Cerutti is a retired Escrow Officer and 15-year resident of Murfreesboro.

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