Early and absentee voter turnout surpasses 2.1 million in Tennessee


At the close of the polls on Wednesday, Oct. 28 Tennessee counties reported higher numbers of voter turnout than ever before. This is a 38% increase statewide of early in-person and absentee votes cast by mail compared to the 2016 presidential election, according to the Tennessee Secretary of State’s website. The website also stated that over 2.1 million voters in Tennessee have cast their ballots early or by absentee ballot. 

According to the Tennessee Secretary of State’s 2020 election calendar, early voting took place from Oct. 14 to 29. 

According to the data that was published by the Tennessee Secretary of State’s website  103,590 residents in Hamilton County voted by the end of the early voting dates. From this total, 87,418 voted early in-person, and 16,172 voted absentee by-mail. Totals are submitted daily by counties to the Division of Elections and include in-person early voters, absentee by-mail voters and voters at licensed facilities.

The City Hall located on 4910 Swinyar Drive was the only polling station in Collegedale. At this location  *18,683 residents voted in-person, according to a report on Hamilton County’s Election Commission’s website. 

According to residents, the wait time to vote reached up to two hours at some points during the early voting dates. 

Joely Hudson has lived in Ooltewah for about eight months and voted on Oct. 22. 

“I waited for 50 minutes,” Hudson said. “My only complaint is that people were standing way too close to me. I stayed six feet from the person in front, but the lady behind me was practically on my back.” 

Danielle Darling voted on Oct. 23 around 1 p.m., when she said the lines at the time were past the tennis courts. 

“We waited just over an hour,” Darling said. The line was very long and stretched out toward The Commons. However, the election staff worked very quickly to move people through.”

Twenty-one-year-old Gabby Garcia voted for the first time on Oct. 29, the last day of early voting in Tennessee. 

“When I saw the line, I thought I was going to be here for five hours,” Garcia said. It went a lot quicker than I thought, but the line was insane. I was prepared to be there for a while, but my phone died in the middle so that wasn’t fun. I got there around 1:30 p.m. and left at 3:30 p.m. So it took two hours” 

Garcia registered to vote back in March and had been looking forward to the day where she could vote in-person. 

“I was really excited to vote,” she said. There definitely were a lot fewer young people than I thought. I wish more young people would vote. I was trying to encourage more people to come. My dad even came, but he saw the line and left.” 

Garcia had anticipated the long lines, so she took a partial day off from work. 

“I usually work from 8:30 a.m. to 4 p.m., but I only worked until 12 p.m. today [Oct. 29]. I ran a couple of errands and then came straight here.”

Garcia spoke about how long lines and the lack of resources to get to a polling station can discourage some to vote. 

“People who have to skip work and school or have to Uber is a flaw in my opinion,” Garcia said. It’s like a flaw in the whole system.” 

Once inside, Garcia said the time for the actual voting process did not take very long. 

“It was really short, maybe around 10 minutes, and that was because I took my time to make sure I was reading the articles carefully,” Garcia said. 

In a statement posted on The Tennessee Secretary of State’s website, Tennessee Secretary of State Tre Hargett made a statement in regards to voter turnout.

“These record numbers demonstrate Tennessee voter’s confidence in the safe, sensible and responsible administration of this election,” Hargett said. “County elections officials are doing a great job helping voters have a smooth voting experience.”

More information about voting in Hamilton County can be found on Hamilton County’s Election Commission website.

*All totals are unofficial and are subject to verification and certification by the Hamilton County Election Commission according to the Hamilton County Election Commision website. 

Residents waiting in line outside the Collegedale Town Hall for early voting. Photos by Aubri Dancek

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