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East Tenn. counties Board of Elections see major uptick in absentee ballot voters

The last day to request an absentee ballot in Tennessee is October 27.
Published: Sep. 21, 2020 at 9:06 PM EDT
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MARYVILLE, Tenn. (WVLT) - Election day is approaching and Board of Election officials from counties across East Tennessee have been answering questions.

BOE officials say the top two questions they’re asked over the phone are: “Am I registered to vote?” and, “where is my absentee ballot?”

Hamblen County Administrator of Elections Jeff Gardner said 4 years ago the BOE had a little more than 500 absentee ballots requested, this year the county is already at 1,000 requested. That’s nearly doubled with still six weeks out from the election.

In Sevier County, 1,700 Absentee ballot requests have been made as of Monday morning, and the most the county ever had is between 1,100 and 1,200 according to the Administrator of Elections, Ed Kuncitis.

The last day to request an absentee ballot in Tennessee is October 27. That’s exactly one week before Election Day.

The absentee ballots in Blount County have already doubled compared to the last presidential election.

“It’s a little anxiety-provoking," said Susan Knopf, the Blount County Administrator of Elections.

She estimated anywhere between 5,000 and 7,500 absentee ballot requests for Blount County.

“And I’m hoping it’s going to slow down a little bit because we’re all working long hours. And we’re busy, as all election commissions are right now," said Knopf.

The big question people ask her: “When do I get my ballot? I sent it in a long time ago. So hopefully you’ll get it by the end of September and turn it around as quickly as possible," explained Knopf.

But for those who plan to vote in person, she said “it’s very safe.”

“We have definitely taken COVID very seriously," said Knopf.

When it comes to in-person voting in Blount County, there will be hand sanitizer at the entrance, a one-time-use ink pen for voters and the registrar desks will have plastic shields. Poll workers will have on masks. Voting machines will be sanitized in between use. Voters will use a food service glove in order to vote on the touch screen.

“We did this in August. It worked out very well. We had phone calls from voters that thanked us," explained Knopf, "They felt very safe, and they were happy that they had voted in person and they will be back in November to vote in person.”

In Sevier County, voters will use an eight-inch cotton swab in which to touch the screen.

Knopf said she wanted to remind all voters to be patient.

If you vote via absentee ballot you can click here to check the status of your vote.

If you vote via absentee ballot but are concerned if your vote will get counted in time, you can still vote in person, but it will be on a provisional ballot and your vote may not be counted.

Early voting begins Wednesday, October 14, and ends Thursday, October 29.

Click here for a list of early voting locations in Blount County.

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