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With COVID-19 still lurking, many have option to request absentee ballot for August election

You'll have to fill out an application and then return the ballot once you get it. You must qualify to get such a ballot.

KNOXVILLE, Tenn. — The Aug. 6 election may seem a long way off, but it's not too early to ask for an absentee ballot if you're concerned about being able to vote amid coronavirus concerns.

Friday marked the opening day to request a ballot in Tennessee. The Knox County election and state and federal primaries are Thursday, Aug. 6.

State and local elections officials expect more people will ask for an absentee this year because of uncertainty about what the coming months will bring and because they may be reluctant to go to a polling place this summer.

Many categories of Tennesseans are eligible to ask for an absentee ballot. You can if you fit one or more of these categories:

  • 60 years of age or older;
  • hospitalized, ill, or physically disabled and because of such condition, cannot vote in person;
  • a caretaker of a person who is hospitalized, ill, or disabled;
  • outside Knox county during the early voting period AND all day on Election Day;
  • You or your spouse is enrolled as a full-time student in an accredited college or university outside Knox County;
  • have a physical disability and an inaccessible polling location;
  • reside in a licensed facility providing relatively permanent domiciliary care, other than a penal institution, outside Knox County;
  • a candidate for office in the election;
  • unable to vote in person due to service as a juror for a Federal or State court;
  • Election Day official or as a member or employee of the Knox County Election Commission;
  • observance of a religious holiday prevents you from voting in person during the early voting period AND on Election Day;
  • member of the military or are an overseas citizen;
  • commercial driver working out of county

Local election officials are preparing for high than normal requests for absentee ballots. The last day to request an absentee is July 30.

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You can get one by going here.

You must complete the application and sign it. You can fax it (865-215-4239) and email it (tammy.cole@knoxcounty.org) or mail it to the Election Commission's office downtown.

Credit: Election Commission
A sample absentee ballot available through the county election commission's website.

According to the Election Commission, "Ballots will begin being mailed out to voters the week of June 22 to voters that have requested them. The ballot must be returned by mail, Fed Ex, or UPS. It cannot be hand-delivered to the Election Commission office or a polling place."

Chris Davis, the incoming county elections chief, told 10News the county typically would get about a thousand mail-in ballots for a typical August primary, and maybe 5,000-6,000 ballots for a November election.

This year likely will be very different because of the virus, he said. 

"We anticipate a very marked increase in voting by mail and absentee ballots," Davis said. "We're getting more scanners, we're hiring more people. We're looking for more space to be able to do this and then making sure that that space is secure."

If you have additional questions you can call the Election Commission at 865-215-2480.

Grace King contributed to this report.