County getting ready for August election

Tabitha Oody, with the Loudon County Election Commission, looks over an absentee ballot form.

Loudon County election workers are in the midst of preparations for the August state and federal primary and county general election.

Susan Harrison, county election administrator, hopes to finalize a plan to deal with the COVID-19 pandemic by the first of June.

Harrison pointed to the possibility of requiring a small group of people to be 6 feet apart while others wait outside in their car for their turn to vote.

“A lot of people, especially in some of the smaller precinct buildings, may ask them to stay in their car until it’s their turn to keep them,” Harrison said. “Maybe ask the ladies to keep their purse in the car, just to bring in their ID so that you won’t have contamination off a purse. ... That’s one of things we’re probably going to do is ask ladies to please leave their purse in the car.

“... That’s the thing the state wants, they don’t want big crowds at one time, to just keep it small,” she added. “We’ll probably lay out each early voting location to spread people out, and then we’ll have sneeze guards, gloves. We’re planning on giving each voter their own pair of gloves and their own personal ink pen.”

She expects no skin contact with voting machines and poll workers will sanitize the area.

Residents can start requesting absentee by-mail ballots for the August election. Harrison expects a big turnout for requests due to the pandemic.

“(I’ll say) 1,300 is the most we’ve ever done and we’ve already got applications for 300-something in three or four days,” Harrison said. “So we probably will set a record. Without a doubt we will probably set a record for this election for the most absentees we’ve ever had. August will probably pass the biggest we’ve ever done, and then in November it’ll be out there, especially depending on what the pandemic is doing. If it comes back in the fall, we’ll be slammed.”

Harrison said the state has estimated the county could have 18,000 absentee ballots for August.

State law provides various ways to vote absentee by mail, including being over 60 years old, being outside the county during early voting and Election Day, working as a poll official and serving in the military out of the country. A full list of reasons can be found at www.govotetn.com.

Harrison encourages people with at-risk health concerns and caretakers of those with at-risk health to take advantage of absentee voting.

A person must have a specific reason that falls within state guidelines to vote absentee, she said.

“Anybody that’s 60 years old automatically qualifies,” Harrison said. “They do have to put their Social Security number on there. That’s a mandatory field that helps prevent voter fraud. A lot of times people will know your name, your address and your date of birth but they don’t usually know your Social Security number. You have to sign your form, so one cannot sign the form for you.”

Early voting, which is July 17-Aug. 1, is strongly encouraged.

“August is normally not a big booming election for us,” Harrison said. “I believe 2,000 and 11,000 will vote total in this next election out of 36,000. It’s just because it’s just not as big an election and not a lot of stuff to bring people out, but then November will be a whole different story. It wouldn’t shock me to see 80 percent voting in November.”

Harrison said more workers are always needed.

For more information, visit www.loudoncountyvotes.com or call 865-458-2560.

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