Hargett at McMinn Election Commission

Tennessee Secretary of State Tre Hargett (red tie) talks with members of the McMinn County Election Commission and Sen. Mike Bell (left) during his stop at the local election commission office.

Early voting for the Nov. 3 election began on Wednesday and it brought a state official to the local area.

Tennessee Secretary of State Tre Hargett traveled around many areas of the state on Wednesday to promote early voting.

Meigs County, McMinn County and Monroe County were among his stops as he promoted early voting and took a look at local election commissions.

He believes it is important to check up on the election commissions across the state.

“A lot of work has gone into making sure we have the necessary protocols in place to protect the health and safety of the voters as well as poll officials,” said Hargett. “We are excited people are taking advantage of early voting and, at the same time, we want to make sure that the protocols that we put in place between state officials, local officials and health officials are being followed.”

He recommends voters to take advantage of early voting to help circumvent any unexpected delays.

“You never know what will happen on election day. Kids get sick, the car won’t start, you know things happen and this is a great way to take advantage of a time convenient for you to come and cast your vote,” Hargett noted.

With COVID-19 impacting many facets of life across America this year, there has been a lot of discussion surrounding the upcoming election and how it will be handled.

He stated that he has witnessed a “heavy” amount of voters casting their votes on the first day of early voting.

“We see enthusiasm at the polls, but we have also seen a lot of people being very polite regardless of their political differences, people out standing together, campaigning together and it is neat to see,” he said. “This is how the process is meant to work, Where we all come together, we cast our votes and people know how to disagree without being disagreeable and that is what makes our state and our nation so great.”

He also shared his thoughts on the mail-in ballot process that is expected to play a larger role this year.

“There are two types of mail-in ballots. You have absentee by mail ballots and you have universal by mail ballots and in Tennessee we have had, over the years, only about 2-1/2 % of the people, during a presidential election, vote absentee despite the fact that close to 1/3 of Tennessee is already eligible to cast absentee by mail in ballot, so what that tells you is that Tennessee likes to vote in person,” explained Hargett. “In Tennessee we have an absentee by mail process and we are going to see record numbers of absentee by mail ballots cast this time and it is important that we be able to verify signatures to verify that people are who they said they are. We have to be able to get ballots out to them in a timely fashion and part of that is for them to request to us in a timely fashion and then they have to have time to get that ballot mailed back in and have it counted.”

Mail-in ballots are available by request for voters in Tennessee.

“In Tennessee the voter says ‘send me a ballot’ and then they will check one of the 14 reasons under Tennessee law to receive one. In a handful of other states, they send ballots out to everyone regardless of if they requested it or not,” he said. “That is really where it gets dangerous, in my opinion. A lot of states who are trying to do this do not have the infrastructure for it. States like Washington, which is a good example for this, they have been doing this for 40 years and they have their system down but we have other states who are trying to take 40 years of hard work and jam it into six months which is not a good thing.”

He believes COVID-19 has changed the process of voting in person with the amount of safety precautions the voters and election commissions must follow.

“We are all wearing masks, we are trying to get people to practice social distancing at the polls,” he noted. “People are sanitizing and wearing gloves so this virus has shaped a lot of things.”

He believes the election will go “smooth” this year.

“That is a credit to all of the hard working election officials and all 95 counties have put in an effort to making it that way (go smoothly),” he said.

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