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Tennessee offers post office absentee drop-offs until Nov. 3

The message also says, “Tennessee law does not allow for third party political operatives to collect ballots on behalf of voters.”
The state is providing Vote-By-Mail ballot drop boxes for voters to drop off absentee ballots.
The state is providing Vote-By-Mail ballot drop boxes for voters to drop off absentee ballots.(John Dougherty/KTVF)
Published: Oct. 29, 2020 at 7:58 AM EDT
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NASHVILLE, Tenn. (AP) — Tennessee voters now can drop off completed absentee ballots until Election Day afternoon at one post office location in every county, according to a list recently posted on the secretary of state’s website.

Tennessee, which does not allow conventional drop boxes for absentee voting, is asking voters to mail their ballots at a designated post office by 3 p.m. local time on Nov. 3. County election officials will pick up the ballots after 3 p.m. on Election Day, the state says. At least one county, Nashville’s Davidson County, plans to let voters drop off by 5 p.m.

“The deadline to request a by-mail ballot has passed,” Republican Secretary of State Tre Hargett’s website says. “To facilitate timely receipt of voted absentee by-mail ballots on Election Day, the U. S. Postal Service has designated a post office in each of the 95 counties for voters to expedite the mailing of their completed absentee by-mail ballot.”

The message also says, “Tennessee law does not allow for third party political operatives to collect ballots on behalf of voters.”

“We are focused on conducting this election safely, sensibly, and responsibly,” Hargett spokesperson Julia Bruck said Wednesday. “This added effort by the USPS ensures voters their ballot will be delivered by the deadline.”

Bruck said the 3 p.m. drop-off time was the time the Postal Service gave the state.

The deadline to request an absentee ballot was Tuesday. Completed absentee ballots must be received by local election commissions via mail by Election Day’s close of polls.

The American Civil Liberties Union of Tennessee stressed on Twitter that voters still need a stamp on their mail-in ballots, even with the drop-off option.

“We recommend using the drop-off post offices rather than using regular mail for your ballot at this point, because it is NOT guaranteed to arrive in time if you mail it from any other location,” the state ACLU chapter tweeted.

Some counties had similar set-ups in the Aug. 6 primary election to ensure absentee ballots didn’t get caught up in postal delays.

Jeff Roberts, administrator of elections in Nashville, noted that voters there should go inside the post office and hand their ballot to a clerk until 5 p.m., when the post office closes. Local election officials will be there to pick them up when it closes.

The option comes as Tennessee officials have announced a new record for early and absentee voting combined, three days before early voting ends for the Nov. 3 election.

Hargett’s office says more than 1.8 million Tennesseans had voted as of the close of polls Monday, already surpassing the previous record of nearly 1.7 million early and absentee ballots cast during the 2016 presidential election.

The final day of the 14-day early voting period is Thursday. Amid the ongoing COVID-19 pandemic and high interest in the presidential race, the state has seen about a 40% increase in votes cast so far compared to the same point during early voting in the 2016 election, according to state data.

Voters can find early voting and Election Day hours, polling locations and more with the GoVoteTN app or at GoVoteTN.com.

The deadline to request an absentee ballot was Tuesday. Completed absentee ballots must be received by local election commissions via mail by Election Day’s close of polls.

Additionally, state Elections Coordinator Mark Goins has granted statewide approval for county election commission offices to offer Election Day voting sites, preferably outdoors, for people who have COVID-19 symptoms or are under COVID-19 quarantine.

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