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Voting & Elections Toolkits

Voter Registration in Tennessee

Eligibility

  • Age: Must be (18) years of age or older on or before the date of the next election.
  • Persons with felony convictions:
    • Any person convicted of any felony on or after May 18, 1981 is disqualified from voting unless their voting rights have been restored or their conviction expunged. There are some crimes, however, where conviction renders a person permanently ineligible to vote. View Restoration of Voting Rights
    • All persons who were convicted between January 15, 1973 and May 17, 1981 are eligible to vote. Persons do not need to have voting rights restored, but the Division of Elections will need to verify that a conviction occurred during this time period.
    • Persons convicted prior to January 15, 1973 may have the right to vote, depending on the crime. View Restoration of Voting Rights
  • Citizenship: Must be a U.S. citizen.
  • Residence: Must be a resident of Tennessee. Consult Guidelines for Determining Residency. 
  • Homeless persons should follow guidelines for establishing an address.
  • Non-resident property owners should consult their local elections commission for questions regarding eligibility.
  • College students can either vote absentee in their home state or register to vote in TN.
  • Residents may verify existing registration with the Voter Registration Information Lookup.

More information:https://sos.tn.gov/products/elections/register-vote

Deadlines

  • Voter registration deadlines are determined by the date of the election.
  • February 3, 2020 is the voter registration deadline for the March Presidential Preference Primary and the State/County Primary.
  • July 7, 2020 is the voter registration deadline for the August State/Federal Primary and the State/County General Election.
  • October 5, 2020 is voter registration for the November State/Federal General Election.
  • Guidelines: https://sos.tn.gov/elections/election-information
  • Election Calendar: https://sos.tn.gov/products/elections/2020-election-calendar

Online registration

You must have a Tennessee driver's license or Tennessee Department of Safety and Homeland Security ID in order to submit this application online. If you do not have a Tennessee driver's license or Tennessee Department of Safety and Homeland Security ID, you will be able to print the voter registration form and submit by mail.   

Online registration form (in English and Spanish): https://voterregistration.ct.gov/OLVR/welcome.do

Mail-in registration

You must have a Tennessee driver's license or Tennessee Department of Safety and Homeland Security ID in order to submit this application online. If you do not have a Tennessee driver's license or Tennessee Department of Safety and Homeland Security ID, you will be able to print the voter registration form and submit by mail.   

Refer to the box below for information about ID requirements.

To update registration after a move, name change, or change of political party affiliation, https://sos.tn.gov/products/elections/how-do-i-update-my-voter-registration-information

            

Updating registration      

To update registration after a move, name change, or change of political party affiliation, https://sos.tn.gov/products/elections/how-do-i-update-my-voter-registration-information

Cancelling registration

Once properly registered to vote in Tennessee, a person remains permanently registered unless the election commission has a statutory reason to remove the voter's name.

Voters may request, in writing, to their local county election commission office to have their name removed from the rolls.

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ID Requirements for Tennessee Voters

ID Requirements for Registration

Online Registration

You must have a Tennessee driver's license or Tennessee Department of Safety and Homeland Security ID in order to submit an application online.

Mail-in Registration

If you do not have a Tennessee driver's license or Tennessee Department of Safety and Homeland Security ID, you will be able to print the voter registration form and submit by mail.   

ID Requirements for Voting

First-Time Voters

First-time voters who meet certain requirements must present either a current and valid photo ID with their name and address OR “a copy of a current utility bill, bank statement, government check, paycheck or government document that shows your name and address.”

If you cannot meet either of the above requirements, you may sign an affidavit and cast a provisional ballot subject to verification of your eligibility to vote.

All Other Voters

Voters who are not voting for the first time can present:

  • A Social Security card, OR
  • Any pre-printed form of identification that shows your name and address, or name and signature, or name and photograph, OR
  • Sign a statement under penalty of false statement on Form ED-681 entitled, "Signatures of Electors Who Did Not Present ID", provided by the Secretary of the State that the elector whose name appears on the official check list is the same person who is signing the form.

More information: https://portal.ct.gov/SOTS/Election-Services/FAQ/FAQ---Voter-Identification

Where to get an ID

Department of Motor Vehicles

Obtaining a Driver’s License

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Casting a Ballot in Tennessee

Important Dates

Presidential Preference Primary and State/County Primary: March 3, 2020

  • Voter Registration Deadline: February 3, 2020
  • Early Voting Period: February 12, 2020-February 25, 2020
  • Absentee Ballot Request Deadline: February 25, 2020

State/Federal Primary and State/County General Election: August 6, 2020

  • Voter Registration Deadline: July 7,  2020
  • Early Voting: July 17, 2020-August 1, 2020
  • Absentee Ballot Request Deadline: July 30, 2020

State/Federal General Election: November 3, 2020

  • Voter Registration Deadline: October 5, 2020
  • Early Voting: October 14, 2020-October 29, 2020
  • Absentee Ballot Request Deadline: October 27, 2020

 

Absentee voting

Opening/closing dates

To vote as an early voter, a registered voter may vote without giving a reason during the established early voting period. The early voting period typically begins twenty (20) days before an election and ends five (5) days before an election. In those instances in a city election where there is not any opposition on the ballot, there shall be no early voting period.

Military voters and voters who reside outside the U.S.

Persons who are United States citizens, residents of Tennessee and members of the Uniformed Services (i.e., armed forces personnel), and their family members.

"Armed forces personnel" is defined in T.C.A. § 2-1-104(1) as members of the Army, Navy, Air Force, Marine Corps, Coast Guard, Environmental Science Service Administration, Public Health Service of the United State's or members of the Merchant Marine of the United States, and their spouses and dependents.

Military personnel, their family members and overseas voters (UOCAVA voters) may receive their absentee ballot via e-mail or by-mail upon request. UOCAVA voters may track when the ballot was received by their local county election commission office. The voted ballot must be received by the local county election commission office by the close of polls on election day to be counted.

Who is eligible to use an absentee ballot?

In order to apply for and receive an absentee ballot, you must meet one of the following requirements:

  1. The voter will be outside the county of registration during the early voting period and all day on election day;
  2. The voter or the voter’s spouse is enrolled as a full-time student in an accredited college or university outside the county of registration;
  3. The voter’s licensed physician has filed a statement with the county election commission stating that, in the physician's judgment, the voter is medically unable to vote in person. The statement must be filed not less than seven (7) days before the election and signed under the penalty of perjury;
  4. The voter resides in a licensed facility providing relatively permanent domiciliary care, other than a penal institution, outside the voter's county of residence;
  5. The voter will be unable to vote in person due to service as a juror for a federal or state court;
  6. The voter is sixty (60) years of age or older;
  7. The voter has a physical disability and an inaccessible polling place;
  8. The voter is hospitalized, ill, or physically disabled and because of such condition, cannot vote in person;
  9. The voter is a caretaker of a person who is hospitalized, ill, or disabled;
  10. The voter is a candidate for office in the election;
  11. The voter serves as an election day official or as a member or employee of the election commission;
  12. The voter’s observance of a religious holiday prevents him or her from voting in person during the early voting period and on election day;
  13. The voter or the voter’s spouse possesses a valid commercial drivers license (CDL) or the voter possesses a valid Transportation Worker Identification Credential (TWIC) card and certifies that he or she will be working outside the state or county of registration during the open hours of early voting and Election Day, and has no specific out-of-county or out-of-state address to which mail may be sent or received during such time.
  14. The voter is a member of the military or is an overseas citizen. read more ...

 

Application for Absentee Ballot: https://sos.tn.gov/products/elections/how-do-i-request-absentee-ballot  

Polling places and hours

  • Use the Polling Place Locator to find your polling place:  https://tnmap.tn.gov/voterlookup/
  • For a general election or primary, polls in Tennessee open at 7 a.m. and close at 7 p.m.
  • Time off to vote: Tennessee law requires employers to provide employees with a reasonable amount of paid time off to vote up to three (3) hours. To be eligible, an employee:
    • must not have three (3) or more hours before their shift begins or after their shift ends in which to vote while polls are open, and
    • request the paid voting leave by twelve o’clock (12:00) noon on the day prior to the vote or election.

For a preview of the voting experience, watch "What is Voting Like?"

Rides to the polls

Many organizations offer free rides to polling places. Some of these include:

  • Lyft (www.lyft.com) provides free or discounted rides in some underserved communities
  • Uber (www.uber.com) offering free rides to the polls on Election Day,
  • Political parties sometimes arrange rides for voters. Contact the local office:

Help for disabled voters

 

The TN Disability Coalition is currently in its third year as part of the Research Alliance for Accessible Voting (RAAV). See their page at: www.tndisability.org/raav.   

The Disability Law and Advocacy Center of Tennessee, a member organization, runs a VOTE! project that includes information on voters with disabilities for pollworkers. See more at: http://www.dlactn.org/vote.html

Ballots

Sample ballots and information on candidates, by county election commission:

https://tnsos.org/elections/election_commissions.php?Show=All

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Elections

Primaries vs. general elections

 

  • Primary elections are conducted to select each party’s candidates in the general election.
  • The State of Tennessee does not require someone to declare party affiliation when registering to vote. Tennessee does have primaries where party nominees who qualify to run for a particular office are elected by majority vote and proceed to the General election held in either August or November. You do not have to be a member of a party to vote in primaries or in General elections. Individuals may register with a certain party but are not required to declare a party when registering to vote. With the exception of Presidential election years when the Presidential Preference Primary is held in February in Tennessee, primaries are held in May or August of even numbered years.
  • In a general election, voters are not required to have a party affiliation.

Jurisdiction

Offices/Measures That May Appear on the Ballot

Federal (even years)

President/Vice-President (elected every four years; next election in 2020)

Senator (elected every six years for staggered terms; next election in 2020)

Representative (elected every two years)

State (even years: November)

Governor/Lieutenant Governor, Secretary of State, State Treasurer, State Comptroller, Attorney General, Judges of Probate (elected every four years; next election in 2022)

State Senator (elected every four years: Senators representing even-numbered districts will next be elected in 2020 and Senators representing odd-numbered districts will next be elected in 2022)

State Representative (elected every two years)

Statewide ballot measures (gubernatorial election years only)

County (even years: August)

Judicial and county officers, including county school board members

 

 

Counties may hold a primary before the August general election; if so, it must be on the first Tuesday in May.

City election cycles (including consolidated metropolitan governments) are set by city charters. They may choose to hold them at the same time as the August or November elections.

Who are the candidates, and what else is on the ballot?

Important Dates

  • Presidential Preference Primary and State/County Primary: March 3, 2020.
  • State/Federal Primary and State/County General Election: August 6, 2020.
  • State/Federal General Election: November 3, 2020.

Dates of municipal elections can be found in the Key Dates document (pdf) or from county election commissions.

Who conducts elections?

  • The State Election Commission is composed of seven members: four from the political party holding a majority of seats in the Tennessee General Assembly and three from the minority party. These individuals are elected for a term of four years.
  • County election commissions maintain voter registration rolls and ensure that citizens can exercise the right to vote.

Voter Bill of Rights

 

Where to go with complaints about candidates or how elections are conducted

Title III HAVA Complaint

Title IV of the Help America Vote Act requires each state to establish a state-based administrative complaint procedure.  This procedure allows individuals to file a complaint if any person believes that a violation under Title III of the Help America Vote Act has occurred, is occurring or is about to occur.

Title III HAVA Complaint Form

A violation of Title III would include issues dealing with the following HAVA sections:

  • voting system standards
  • provisional voting
  • voter information requirements
  • statewide voter registration database and
  • accessibility for persons with disabilities

 

General Complaint

Complaints not falling within one of the Title III HAVA categories may be filed as a general complaint with the State Coordinator of Elections or the local county election commission office.

General Complaint Form

 

Campaign finance

The Bureau of Ethics and Campaign Finance provides Campaign Finance Disclosure Reports and guidelines for contributing to candidates.

How to contact your elected officials:

Citizens may search for elected officials' names and contact information by downloading the the GoVoteTN app or by searching the website.

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General Resources on Voting and Elections

General Resources on Voting and Elections


Hotlines


1-866-OUR-VOTE (866-687-8683)

1-888-VE-Y-VOTA (en Español)

1-888-API-VOTE (Asian multilingual assistance)


Voter Registration & Election Day Resources

Find useful voter information including:

  • Local Election Office and Contact Information
  • Address, Telephone and Email for Local Election Offices
  • Upcoming Federal Election Dates and Deadlines
  • Upcoming State Election Dates and Deadlines
  • Eligibility Requirements
  • Identification Requirements
  • Voter Materials Transmission Options
  • State Lookup Tools – Am I Registered? Where’s my Ballot?

Population-Specific information and Resources

Voting Rights: Laws, Cases, Policy

Voter Engagement

Voter Education

Campaign Finance/Funding Information

Primary Sources, Lesson Plans & Exhibits

Disclaimer

Librarians from the Government Documents Round Table (GODORT), a Round Table of the American Library Association (ALA), created these reference guides. These guides are intended for informational purposes only and are not in any way intended to be legal advice.

These guides are designated with a Creative Commons license and re-use and modification for educational purposes is encouraged.

Creative Commons License
This work is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution 4.0 International License.