Early voting for the Nov. 8 general election is now underway. Secretary of State Tre Hargett and Coordinator of Elections Mark Goins are encouraging Tennesseans to take advantage of this opportunity to avoid lines on Election Day. Voting will continue Mondays through Saturdays and end Thursday, Nov. 3.
“Tennesseans have broken records this election cycle and Nov. 8 will be an incredibly busy day across this state and nation,” said Sec. of State Hargett. “Early voting offers voters a convenient opportunity to cast their ballots instead of waiting until Election Day.”
A new report from The Joint Center for Political and Economic Studies points to the potential challenges some of those voters could face.
The report found that in the last presidential election, some polling places in communities of color had wait times of up to seven hours. Center president Spencer Overton said the analysis points to serious shortcomings in the process.
“African Americans, on average, waited up to twice as long as Whites to vote,” Overton said. “Long lines reduce turnout and also cost time and money.”
The study found that nationwide, White voters waited an average of 12 minutes to vote, compared with 19 minutes for Latino voters and 23 minutes for Black voters. Long lines deterred at least 730,000 Americans from voting, Overton said, noting that 500 votes were enough to determine the outcome of the 2000 presidential election.
A recent Pew study found one in eight voter registration records to be invalid or have serious errors. This makes it hard to accurately predict the resources needed to match voter turnout, and to find voter records for those who finally get to the front of the line, Overton said.
To reduce wait times, Overton suggested, states, counties and cities should adopt and enforce minimum wait-time standards, provide adequate funding for voting machines and workers, expand the number of early voting days, and add the option of voting by mail.
Tennesseans voting early or on Election Day should remember to bring valid photo identification. Photo IDs issued by Tennessee state government, including driver’s licenses, or the federal government are acceptable even if they are expired. College student IDs are not acceptable.
For questions about voting, what types of ID are acceptable or the GoVoteTN app visit . Anyone with concerns about voter fraud should call the Division of Elections toll free at 1-877-850-4959.