While Tennesseans prepare to vote in the upcoming Aug. 6 state primary and local elections, one option now available for all Tennesseans is a mail-in or absentee ballot.

At the beginning of June, the Chancery Court for the 20th Judicial District granted a temporary injunction against Gov. Bill Lee and Tennessee Secretary of State Tre Hargett to allow any Tennessean registered to vote to apply for a mail-in ballot due to COVID-19.

Tennessee was one of five states in the nation that did not allow registered voters to apply for a mail-in ballot unless they provided a valid excuse, and COVID-19 transmittal or contraction did not qualify under state law as a qualifying excuse.

However, Chancellor Ellen Hobbs Lyle ruled that the state’s refusal to make exceptions for COVID-19 placed an “unreasonable burden on the fundamental right to vote guaranteed by the Tennessee Constitution.”

Since all Tennesseans currently registered to vote may apply for a mail-in ballot, questions have arisen for those who have never before voted absentee, including how to request that ballot.

According to Coffee County Elections Administrator Andy Farrar, all absentee ballot requests must include the following information:

  • Full legal name
  • Current address (city, state and ZIP code)
  • Full Social Security number
  • Date of birth
  • Address where to send the ballot, if different from current address
  • What ballot is being requested, primary ballot or general ballot (if you wish to vote in a party primary you must indicate Republican or Democrat)
  • The reason you are requesting to vote absentee
  • A physical signature (digital signatures are not accepted)

The absentee ballot request form is available online at www.coffeecountyelectioncommission.com or at www.govotetn.com. Physical copies are also available at the Coffee County Election Commission office, located at 1329 McArthur St. Suite 6, Manchester, 37355.

After requestors have filled out the form with all the required information, it can be mailed, faxed or emailed back to the election commission office, Farrar said.

There are other restrictions, according to Farrar. Anyone that registered to vote online or by mail and has not voted in person the first time and wishes to vote absentee must show proof of eligibility at the election commission office by providing a valid federal or state picture ID.

The last day to request an absentee ballot for the Aug. 6 election is July 30, according to Farrar.

Erin McCullough may be reached at emccullough@tullahomanews.com.

Staff Writer

Erin McCullough has won awards for her news reporting, community lifestyles and education reporting in the three years she's been a journalist. She is a graduate of the University of Tennessee and currently lives in Tullahoma with her cat, Luna.

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