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Knox County voters won't be able to talk on their cell phones once they enter a polling place.

Except during emergencies.

The Knox County Election Commission on Friday unanimously approved policy that establishes a new cell phone use policy for early voting and Election Day.

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The policy prohibits voters from talking on their phones, however, it won't stop them from texting or taking pictures, so long as they don't take a picture of someone else that shows how that person voted.

"It's not really all that dramatic, but it's something that needs to be said," county Administrator of Elections Cliff Rodgers said. "This way the (poll workers) can point to a sign and remind (voters) if they are on the phone that they are being rude."

Additionally, Rodgers noted that the policy also protects voters. He said residents who talk on their phone run the risk of mentioning a candidate's name aloud or talking about an issue, which would violate the state's "100-foot" rule that bans any type of campaigning within 100 feet of a polling place.

Rodgers said he doesn't expect problems from the new policy, adding that "most folks are reasonable."

"We're hoping people will be respectful and for the most part people are," he said.

The policy will take effect beginning with early voting for the Aug. 7 elections.

The move comes as the county's election commission received a complaint during the May primary that at least one voter at the Larry Cox precinct distracted and upset voters because he talked while inside the voting booth.

The state doesn't have a policy about using cell phones inside voting locations, so the decision is left to individual counties. Rodgers said that he's checked with other election administrators and policies vary from allowing cell phones to out-right banning them.

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