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NASHVILLE, Tenn.— Tennesseans with COVID-19 or those showing symptoms should be able to vote in person with new safety measures on Nov. 3 if they choose to, state elections officials told counties this week.
In a memo sent to county election officials Monday, Tennessee Coordinator of Elections Mark Goins laid out precise guidelines on how counties could use election commission offices to safely let those voters who are quarantining or who have tested positive for COVID-19 cast a ballot.
“Because normal polling locations are not suitable for voters with COVID-19, for the November 3, 2020, election, I grant statewide approval for the county election commission office to be designated as a voting site for any voter with COVID-19 symptoms,” Goins wrote in the memo.
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The sites are intended to be used only to allow Tennesseans with COVID-19 symptoms or who have been told to quarantine to vote. Everyone else must vote at their normal Election Day precinct.
Goins set out a framework on how counties who need to set up the COVID-19 site can stay safe:
- Post signs that say “HEALTH ALERT” with all “VOTE HERE” signage to alert the voter with symptoms not to enter the building.
- If a voter calls on Election Day asking for guidance on how to vote with COVID-19 symptoms, direct them to the commission site.
- Weather permitting, set up the COVID-19 polling site outside at or near the election commission offices.
- Each voting site must have bipartisan representation and have four election officials present.
- Election officials at the COVID-19 site must wear a face covering, a face shield, gloves and a gown covering their clothing. These must be properly disposed after each voter is processed.
- Voters must vote using a paper ballot and be given single-use pens to vote.
Tennessee law allows the use of election commission offices as voting sites on Election Day when needed, although usually individual counties will seek approval from the coordinator of elections on an as-needed basis.
With this memo, Goins is allowing counties to choose to set up the sites.
The process is the same as the state recommended for the August primary election, Secretary of State spokesperson Julia Bruck said in an email.
Then, it “went incredibly smooth for both the voters and election commissions,” she said.
Early voting runs through Thursday in all counties. Election day is Nov. 3.
Tuesday is the last day to request an absentee ballot, although elections officials and the United States Postal Service caution voters that it may be too late to return them through the mail on time.
For those who have already requested ballots and have yet to return them, some counties designate a specific post office as the best location to return them for the shortest transit time.
Follow Tennesseean reporter Mariah Timms on Twitter: @MariahTimms.