Long lines at Town Hall for state-federal election/Knox amendments early voting

  • Early voters intent on casting their ballots in Farragut Town Hall Saturday, Oct. 17, began lining up well before the 11 a.m. poll opening. Early voting continues through Thursday, Oct. 29. - Michelle Hollenhead

Tennessee’s first day of early voting Wednesday, Oct 14, set records — but not in Knox County, where just beyond 8,000 cast ballots.

“We had very long lines yesterday, but it was not a record,” said Chris Davis, Knox County Administrator of Elections, on Thursday, Oct. 15. “Farragut — one of the largest precincts — was actually down the most because of social distancing.”

He said the process was hampered “by printer and computer issues” the first day, but overall “everything, knock on wood, has gone really well. Folks have been gracious to our workers and we are hoping the weather stays good.”

However, a county record was set Saturday, Oct. 17, Davis said, with 6,595 casting ballots. Voters have been waiting in line up to four hours in the first days of early voting, which continues through Thursday, Oct. 29.

“Our workers have been doing a great job, helping keep people safe,” Davis said.

As early voting continues at 10 locations in Knox County, including Farragut Town Hall, Downtown West, 1645 Downtown West Blvd., Unit 40, and the City County Building, Davis said participants should continue to expect long lines.

“But I would much rather see voters in line two to two-and-a-half hours rather than wait ’til Election Day,” he said.

Times are 10 a.m. to 6 p.m. through Friday, Oct. 23, then from 11 a.m. to 5 p.m., Saturday, Oct. 24, at most locations.

Starting Monday, Oct. 26, through the final early voting day, Oct. 29, most locations will be open from 8 a.m. to 8 p.m. Karns Senior Center, the City County Building and Meridian Baptist Church have different schedules. Visit www.knoxcounty.org/election for more information. Registered Knox County voters may vote in any early voting location.

Additionally, if voters are in line at the time the polls close, they will be allowed to vote, Davis said.

“But not if they are even one minute late,” he added.

Two ballot amendments

While the wait times may be long, the voting process itself should be fairly quick, except for the fact that two Knox County Charter amendments are being considered.

The first is a vote on whether or not to make the Knox County Law Director an appointed position by the Knox County Mayor, or keep it as an elected position.

The second, if approved, concerns the duties of the County Mayor as it relates to contracts.

“One of things that may slow voters down is the two county charter amendment issues,” Davis said. “I would recommend voters go look at a sample ballot (which can be found at knoxcounty.org/election) before going to vote.

“We don’t want someone to turn a three-minute voting trip into 10-minute voting trip,” he added.

Masks not required to vote

Knoxville Mayor India Kincannon misspoke on social media at the offset of early voting, when she stated masks were required to vote. “She is wrong, she admitted to me she was wrong — you do not have to wear one to vote,” Davis said. “Town of Farragut requires you to have a mask to enter Town Hall, but inside the voting area, if someone wants to take their masks off we can’t stop them.”

Poll watchers

Both the Republican and Democratic parties have appointed poll watchers to work during the early voting process, Davis said.

“Voters might see a poll watcher,” Davis said. “They are required to stand in certain areas, and they can observe the conduct of what is going on and see how things are going. They can’t see ballots or personal information, and can’t interact with a voter. If something is amiss, or they see something they think is wrong, they may only speak with the election officials at the polling locations.”