Analysis

Warnings of Long Ballots in Tennessee Encourage Early Voting

State officials in Tennessee asked voters to consider voting before Election Day to avoid long lines during the state’s Aug. 7 primary. Such a message is common in states that offer early voting, but it was especially urgent in Tennessee, where the ballot was one of the longest in its history. 

The secretary of state’s office estimated that the average person would take five to eight minutes to vote. In Rutherford County, the ballots ranged from seven to 14 pages. Secretary of State Tre Hargett said he hoped that 60 percent of the ballots would be cast before Election Day. 

State voters got the message:

  • Statewide early voting was up nearly 6 percent over the ballots cast during the 2010 primary.
  • In Rutherford County, early voting was up nearly 100 percent.
  • There were no reports of long lines at the polls; most wait times were five to 20 minutes.

In 2012, a lengthy ballot was one of the reasons cited for long lines at the Florida polls during the November election. Florida’s experience helped spur creation of the Presidential Commission on Election Administration, which recommended that jurisdictions test the time necessary for voters to cast ballots and then allocate machines and poll workers accordingly to shorten waits. 

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