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Absentee Voting

Absentee-by-Mail Voting FAQs

Q: Who is eligible to vote by mail?

A: Tennessee state law dictates the reasons for which a voter qualifies to vote by mail. You may be eligible to vote by mail if you are:
  • 60 years of age or older.
  • Outside Hamilton County on Election Day and all the days of the Early Voting period.
  • A student or the spouse of a student attending school outside Hamilton County.
  • On jury duty on a state or federal court.
  • Disabled and your polling place is inaccessible. (All Hamilton County polling locations are now handicap accessible; however, voters with physical disabilities may still opt to vote by mail.)
  • Hospitalized, ill, or physically disabled.
  • The caretaker of a hospitalized, ill, or physically disabled person.
  • A commercial driver working outside the county during Early Voting and on Election Day and in possession of a valid commercial driver’s license or TWIC card.
  • Observing a religious holiday during the days of Early Voting and on Election Day
  • A Permanent Absentee Voter (requires a doctor’s certificate on file).
  • A candidate for office
  • An election official on Election Day or a member or employee of the Election Commission.
  • A full time resident of a licensed nursing home, home for the aged or similar licensed institution providing relatively permanent domiciliary care, other than a penal institution, outside the voter’s county of residence. (Per state law, deputies from the Election Commission will visit all state-licensed nursing home facilities within Hamilton County in order to give residents the opportunity to vote. State law prohibits the Election Commission from mailing a ballot to a resident of a facility we visit.)
  • A member of the military, a military dependent, or a civilian residing overseas.

Q: How do I request an absentee-by-mail ballot?

A:You must request a ballot in writing. The easiest was to do so is to use our online form (which must be printed, signed, and submitted) or call our office at 423/493-5100 and we will send you an application.

Q: I’m active duty military/a dependent of a member of the military/a civilian residing overseas. How can I vote?

A: You should complete a Federal Postcard Application (Form 76) and submit it to our office. You can submit the form as early as January 1 of an election year. In the event that the first election of the year is less than 90 days from January 1, you can submit the form beginning 90 days from the first election. You need only submit a request once for the entire year. We will automatically send ballots to you for each election in the election year. You do not have to submit subsequent requests in the same year unless your information changes.

Q: What information do you need on the application?

A: The voter must include the following information on the application:
  • Name
  • Hamilton County address
  • Social Security Number
  • Date of Birth
  • Reason for voting absentee
  • The address to send the ballot (If you are out of the county, we must mail the ballot out of the county, with the exceptions of those working outside of the county with a CDL or TWIC card.)
  • The election for which the voter is requesting a ballot
  • The voter’s party preference – Democrat or Republican – if the election is a primary
  • Signature

Q: Can you mail the ballot to my home?

A: We can mail your ballot to your Hamilton County residence if you are voting absentee for the following reasons:
  • 60 years of age or older
  • On jury duty on a state or federal court
  • Disabled and your polling place is inaccessible (All Hamilton County polling locations are now handicap accessible; however, voters with physical disabilities may still opt to vote by mail.)
  • Hospitalized, ill, or physically disabled
  • The caretaker of a hospitalized, ill, or physically disabled person
  • A commercial driver working outside the county during Early Voting and on Election Day and in possession of a valid commercial driver’s license or TWIC card
  • Observing a religious holiday during the days of Early Voting and on Election Day
  • A Permanent Absentee Voter (requires a doctor’s certificate on file)
  • A candidate for office
  • An election official on Election Day or a member or employee of the Election Commission

Q: Can you mail the ballot to me if I’m out of town?

A: We must mail the ballot to you at an address outside of Hamilton County for the following reasons:
  • Outside Hamilton County on Election Day and all the days of the Early Voting period
  • A student or the spouse of a student attending school outside Hamilton County
  • A full time resident of a licensed nursing home, home for the aged or similar licensed institution providing relatively permanent domiciliary care, other than a penal institution, outside the voter’s county of residence (Per state law, deputies from the Election Commission will visit all state-licensed nursing home facilities within Hamilton County in order to give residents the opportunity to vote. State law prohibits the Election Commission from mailing a ballot to a resident of a facility we visit.)
  • A member of the military, a military dependent, or a civilian residing overseas

Q: What happens if I leave information off the application?

A: We will contact you to let you know what additional information we need. If you include a phone number or email address, we will try to contact you that way first. If we can’t reach you, or you have not supplied a phone number or email, then we will send you a letter and a new application.

Q: Can I fax or email the application?

A: Yes. You can hand deliver, mail, fax, or email the application to us. You must sign your application, so if you choose to email it, you must first scan it in and send it as an attachment.

Q: What is the deadline for an absentee application?

A: You can request or submit an application beginning 90 days before an election. The deadline for requests is seven (7) days before an election. We cannot process a request received after the seven day deadline.

Q: Do I have to apply each election?

A: The answer for most voters is yes, you must complete and submit a new application each election. There are some exceptions: voters who are in the military, military dependents, or civilians living overseas only have to make one request per election year.

Q: I have permanent health problems. Can I automatically vote by mail each election?

A: Tennessee state law allows for a voter to be classified as “Permanent Absentee”. In order to be put on the Permanent Absentee list, contact us with your doctor’s name and contact information and we will send a form for your doctor to sign and return to us. After your doctor approves the request, you will automatically receive a simplified application for each election. You must sign and return the application in order to receive a ballot.

Q: I’m a truck driver. I’ll be gone during Early Voting and on Election Day, but I don’t have an out-of-county address where I get mail. Where will you send my ballot?

A: If you are a commercial driver working outside the county during Early Voting and on Election Day, do not have an out-of-county address where you can receive mail, and possess a valid commercial driver’s license or TWIC card, then we can mail the ballot to your Hamilton County residence. You must provide your CDL or TWIC card number on your absentee application.

Q: I’ve never voted before. Can I vote by mail if I’ve never voted in person?

A: Maybe. Tennessee state law says each voter must make one personal appearance before voting by mail. If you have voted in person at least once, this fulfills this requirement. If you haven’t voted in person, you must register to vote in person or at a state or county agency such at the Department of Motor Vehicles or County Clerk’s office. If you have questions about how you registered or how you can register, please call us at 423/493-5100.

Q: When do you mail ballots?

A: If you have applied well in advance of an election, you will receive your ballot in the first batch we send out. For members of the military, their dependents, and overseas civilians, we send our first mail our first batch of ballots no later than 45 days prior to an election. For all other absentee voters we send the first batch of ballot no later than 30 days before an election. If you submit an application within the 45 or 30 day timeframe we usually mail your ballot in one or two business days, although there may be delays if we are trying to contact you for additional information.

Q: Can you email or fax a ballot to me?

A: Members of the military, their dependents, and civilians residing overseas may opt to receive their ballots by postal mail or email. All other absentee voters must receive their ballots via mail. Tennessee law does not allow for faxed ballots for any voter.

Q: I’m in the military and would like to have my ballot emailed to me. Can I email it back?

A: No. State law allows us to email ballots to you, but we must receive a hard copy back. We will send you a .pdf which you can print out and mark. We will also send a .pdf of a voter affidavit and a mailing envelope, along with instructions on how to create a privacy envelope to ensure the secrecy of your ballot

Q: Do absentee voters receive the same ballots as in-person voters?

A: Yes. This is why we must confirm your Hamilton County residence on your application. The ballot you receive will look the same as a ballot you would receive at your precinct on Election Day.

Q: What supplies come with an absentee ballot?

A: You will receive: 1) a ballot, 2) instructions and a pencil, 3) a security envelope to ensure the privacy of your ballot, and 4) a return envelope (this requires a stamp).

Q: What do I do once I have my ballot?

A: When you have decided how you are going to vote, mark your ballot using a #2 pencil or a blue or black ink pen. We will enclose a small pencil as a courtesy; however, you are not required to use the pencil we provide. After marking your ballot, fold it and place it inside the security envelope. Seal the front flap and sign the voter affidavit. It is important to sign the affidavit, as we cannot accept your ballot if the affidavit is not signed. If anyone assists your with your ballot, they must sign the affidavit, as well.

Q: When are ballots due back?

A: Ballots must be returned by the close of polls on Election Day.

Q: When are ballots counted?

A: All valid absentee ballots are counted on Election Day.

Q: I live overseas. Will I have extra time to return my ballot?

A: No. All ballots are counted on Election Day. If you are concerned we may not receive your ballot in time, you can submit a Federal Write-in Absentee Ballot (FWAB) as a backup after you request your official ballot.

Q: Can a relative hand deliver my ballot?

A: No. All ballots must be returned by mail – either US postal mail or a carrier such as FedEx, UPS, etc.

Q: I received my ballot but decided I want to vote in person. What do I do?

A: You must bring your ballot with you and surrender it at the polling location. You will then receive a new ballot at your polling place.

Q: I received my ballot but it was damaged OR I never received a ballot. What do I do?

A: Call us immediately for a replacement ballot and supply set.

Q: My mom is in a nursing home in Hamilton County. Can you mail a ballot to her?

A: No. Before each election, deputies from the Election Commission contact each state-licensed nursing home, assisted living facility, and home for the aged in the county to determine if eligible voters live at the facility. We then visit the facilities with ballot materials and give each registered voter the opportunity to vote. Residents are not required to vote when we visit. However, if a voter chooses not to vote on the day we are there, and then decides later to vote, the voter must go to Early Voting or vote at their precinct on Election Day. State law prohibits us from mailing ballots to voters at facilities we visit.

Q: My son is away at college. Can I request a ballot be sent to him?

A: No. We must receive the request from the voter himself. Encourage him to call us for an application or to visit our website where he can print out an application.

Q: I have power of attorney for my dad. Can I sign his application? Can I vote his ballot?

A: No. Power of attorney does not work for voting in Tennessee. If you have a family member who can no longer sign his name, that family member must still make his own mark on the application. An X is acceptable. If the voter signs with an X, a witness is needed and you may sign as a witness. As for the ballot, as long as the voter is able to make his own decision about how to vote and can communicate these decisions, you may assist in marking the ballot, but you cannot mark the ballot on your own, even if you think you know how your dad would want to vote. The voter must sign or mark the voter’s affidavit on the privacy envelope and the assistant and a witness must also sign.

Q: I must travel out of town for a funeral the day before Election Day. Early Voting is over. How can I vote?

A: Voters may vote in person at the Election Commission office one to five days prior to Election Day (the timeframe between the end of Early Voting and the day before Election Day) upon providing reasonable proof to the Administrator of Elections that the person will be out of the county on Election Day due to the death of a relative.

Q: I just received a subpoena/service of process and must appear in Court on Election Day. Early Voting ended yesterday. What do I do?

A: Voters may vote in person at the Election Commission office one to five days prior to Election Day (the timeframe between the end of Early Voting and the day before Election Day) upon providing reasonable proof to the Administrator of Elections that the voter has received a subpoena or service of process which requires the voter’s presence in court on Election Day.