Absentee voting in Chattanooga, TN

We have what you need to know about absentee voting. | Photo by Element5 Digital via Pexels

Did you know? More than 116,000 people in Tennessee cast an absentee ballot ahead of the recent primary elections? That number “shattered” records from previous presidential elections.  

If you’re planning to vote by mail this fall, keep reading for more info on how to get your ballot + answers to all your FAQs.

Is this the same thing as mail-in ballots or mail-in voting?

Yes. Different states have different rules and regulations governing absentee and mail-in ballots, but for the purposes of the 2020 elections in TN, they are effectively the same thing.

Will absentee ballots be mailed automatically to all registered voters?

No. Absentee ballots will be mailed to voters who request them. You can request them through Oct. 27 and they must be returned to the local election commission on or before Election Day on Nov. 3. TN voters who prefer to vote in-person can participate in early voting Oct. 14-29.

Note: if you voted absentee in the primary election, you have to resubmit a request for a general election absentee ballot.

Am I eligible for voting absentee by-mail? 

There’s a long list of eligibilities including:

  • You are 60 years of age or older.
  • You will be outside the county where you are registered during the early voting period and all day on Election Day.
  • You are hospitalized, ill or physically disabled, and unable to appear at your polling place to vote (this includes persons who have underlying medical or health conditions which, in their determination, render them more susceptible to contracting COVID-19 or at greater risk should they contract it).
  • Click here for the full list.

Is photo ID required to vote absentee? 

No. You must provide information, such as name, address, SS number, DOB and reason for wanting to vote absentee. Check the entire list of requirements here

What is the deadline for voting absentee?

The deadline to request an absentee by-mail ballot is Oct. 27. The deadline to return it is Election Day on Nov. 3. It must be received by the time polls close on Election Day. You must return your ballot by mail. You can’t drop it at the election office. 

Is absentee by-mail voting secure?

Yes. According to the Elections Commission Office, Tennessee has a very secure system in place. Anyone voting absentee must sign in two different places to verify their signature, making security a two-layer process.

Note: in Tennessee, absentee ballots must be mailed (using USPS, FedEx, or UPS). Ballots cannot be walked to a polling place or dropped in a dropbox.

This is part of our ongoing election coverage. You can learn more about our Editorial Ethics Policy and how we prioritize information regarding the upcoming elections here.