NASHVILLE, Tenn. (WKRN) – One of the takeaways from Tennessee’s early voting records is most Tennesseans think going to the polls is safe during a pandemic.
It’s what was hoped for as Congress divvied out $400 million dollars to help states like Tennessee conduct elections in the age of COVID-19.
The secretary of state’s office, which oversees elections, says Tennessee’s share was “$7.98 million from Congress” and the state “was required to provide matching funds totaling nearly $1.6 million for a total of $9.58 million.”
The secretary of state’s office said the money went “to help counties process the unprecedented number of absentee ballots, including supplies, additional scanners to count the ballots, and funds for extra personnel. As part of our commitment to safety, the state also used funds to provide county election commissions with protections for polling places, such as hand sanitizer for every polling place and social distancing resources. We have also used funds to help counties recruit poll officials, which has allowed us to keep all of our polling locations open for the August and November elections.”
Those waiting in line to vote at a Nashville library noticed some safety measures being enforced, such as poll workers in personal protection equipment (PPE).
“I did feel safe,” said Ginna Bowers after she voted. “They did many precautions, social distancing, masks…very sanitized, got to keep your own pen, had little straws for the touch screen, so you were not even touching the touch screen.”
A sampling of several voters echoed approval.
“As long as I have my mask and try to socially distance as much as possible, I feel pretty safe,” Alicia Bowers said as she waited in line.
While most voters wear masks as they vote or wait in line, it’s not a requirement, according to Davidson County Election Administrator Jeff Roberts.
“The vast, vast majority are wearing a mask because that is what they have to do in their everyday life,” he said Tuesday.
COVID or maybe even convenience drew a record number of absentee ballots in Tennessee as well, but the pandemic was also a “motivating factor” for getting record numbers of early voters like Courtney Fullum to the polls.
“Our country really needs someone that is going to lead and guide us out of this pandemic,” he said after voting.