NASHVILLE, Tennessee. – Tennesseans with COVID-19 or those with symptoms should be able to vote in person with new safety measures on November 3 if they wish, county officials told counties this week.
In a note sent to county election officials on Monday, Tennessee Election Coordinator Mark Goins set out specific guidelines on how counties could use election commission offices to safely allow voters who are in quarantine or who have tested positive for COVID-19 to vote.
“Since normal polling locations are unsuitable for voters with COVID-19, for the November 3, 2020 election, I am granting statewide approval for the county election commission office be designated as the voting site for any voter exhibiting symptoms of COVID-19, “Goins wrote in the memo.
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The sites are intended to be used only to allow Tennesseans showing symptoms of COVID-19 or who have been told to quarantine to vote. All others must vote in their normal constituency on election day.
Goins has set out a framework on how counties that need to configure the COVID-19 site can stay safe:
- Post “HEALTH ALERT” signs along with all “VOTE HERE” signs to warn the elector who is showing symptoms not to enter the building.
- If a voter calls on polling day asking for advice on how to vote with symptoms of COVID-19, direct them to the commission’s website.
- If time permits, set up the COVID-19 voting site outside or near the electoral commission offices.
- Each voting site must have bipartite representation and four election officials are present.
- COVID-19 site election officials must wear a face mask, face shield, gloves and a gown covering their clothing. These must be properly disposed of after the treatment of each voter.
- Voters must vote using a paper ballot and be given disposable pens to vote.
Tennessee law allows the use of election commission offices as polling day sites when needed, although individual counties typically seek approval from the election coordinator as needed.
With this memo, Goins allows counties to choose to configure sites.
The process is the same as the state recommended for the August primary elections, spokeswoman for Secretary of State Julia Bruck said in an email.
Then it “went incredibly well for the voters and the election commissions,” she said.
Early voting runs through Thursday in all counties. Election day is November 3.
Tuesday is the last day to request a postal vote, although election officials and the United States Postal Service are warning voters it may be too late to return them by post on time.
For those who have already requested ballots and have not yet returned them, some counties designate a specific post office as the best place to return them during the shortest transit time.
Follow Tennessee reporter Mariah Timms on Twitter: @MariahTimms.