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Tennessee Election 2020: US Postal Service says you should act fast to apply for, return mail-in ballot

Postal Service has some tips that it's sending to households across the country, including East Tennessee. You may get a card in the mail.

KNOXVILLE, Tennessee — Thinking about getting a mail-in ballot for the Nov. 3 election?

The United States Postal Service has some tips and advice that it's sending to households across the country, including East Tennessee. Amid unprecedented times and the COVID-19 pandemic, you may get a card in the mail from them this week.

First, the agency said, plan ahead.

More than 100,000 Tennesseans voted by mail-in ballot in the August 2020 primary/general election. That's a record.

Election officials say mail-in balloting likely will again by high for the Nov. 3 vote because people remain concerned about public exposure to the virus.

With debate ongoing this summer about whether it can handle a surge in mail-in requests -- the Post Office says it can -- USPS said it's smart to request such a ballot as soon as possible.

Contact your local election commission -- every county has one -- to get the application.

Mail-in applications should be ready this month for distribution to voters. In common usage, they're sometimes referred to as "absentee ballots."

Don't wait until the last minute to send it in because that's how an application could get overlooked or lost.

County websites should offer instructions, such as the one for the Knox County Election Commission.

The Tennessee Secretary of State's Office also can help.

USPS also offers this central contact guide.

Once your election commission sends you the ballot, you'll have plenty of time to cast it. But again, USPS warns, don't wait until the last minute.

Send it in promptly after you receive it. You've got until Election Day itself in Tennessee to get the ballot back by mail, but in order to be absolutely certain that your local election commission gets it in time, send it in early, the USPS advises.

"We recommend you mail your ballot at least 7 days before Election Day," the USPS states.

If it's required, be sure to add postage to your mail-in ballot so that USPS can deliver it back to your election commission.

Mail-in ballots will be opened on Election Day. A final tally of them will be run after local polls close, typically at 8 p.m.

You must meet a qualification set by the state to vote by mail.

This year the state is making accommodations for those who think they're susceptible to COVID-19 or who are caring for someone who is susceptible to the virus.

Here are the categories of voters eligible in Tennessee to get a mail-in ballot:

  • You are sixty (60) years of age or older.
  • You will be outside the county where you are registered during the early voting period and all day on Election Day.
  • You are hospitalized, ill or physically disabled and unable to appear at your polling place to vote (this includes persons who have underlying medical or health conditions which in their determination render them more susceptible to contracting COVID-19 or at greater risk should they contract it). For a list of underlying health conditions that makes a person more susceptible, see https://www.cdc.gov/coronavirus/2019-ncov/need-extra-precautions/people-with-medical-conditions.html. A physician’s statement is not required to check this box.
  • You are the caretaker of a person who is hospitalized, ill, or disabled (this includes caretakers for persons who have underlying medical or health conditions which in their determination render them more susceptible to contracting COVID-19 or at greater risk should they contract it). For a list of underlying health conditions that makes a person more susceptible, see https://www.cdc.gov/coronavirus/2019-ncov/need-extra-precautions/people-with-medical-conditions.html. A physician’s statement is not required to check this box.
  • You or your spouse are a full-time student in an accredited college or university outside the county where you are registered.
  • You reside in a nursing home, assisted living facility or home for the aged outside your county of residence.
  • You are a candidate for office in the election.
  • You are observing a religious holiday that prevents you from voting in person during the early voting period and on Election Day.
  • You serve as an Election Day official or as a member or employee of the election commission.
  • You will be unable to vote in-person due to jury duty.
  • You have a physical disability and an inaccessible polling place.
  • You or your spouse possess a valid commercial drivers license (CDL) or Transportation Worker Identification Credential (TWIC) card and you will be working outside the state or county of registration during the open hours of early voting and Election Day and have no specific out-of-county or out-of-state address to which mail may be sent or received during such time.
  • You are a member of the military or are an overseas citizen.
  • You are on the permanent absentee list.