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Voting in Tennessee

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Tennessee did not permit online voter registration as of January 2015. It does, however, permit no-excuse early voting and absentee voting. If voting with an absentee ballot, the voter must meet the requirements set forth by the state. Tennessee voters must provide government-issued photo ID at the polls.

For full information about voting in Tennessee, contact the state election agency.


To vote in Tennessee, you must meet the following requirements:[1]

  • You must be a citizen of the United States, (18) years of age or older on or before the date of the next election.
  • You must be a resident of Tennessee.
  • You must not have been convicted of a felony, or if you have, your full rights of citizenship must have been restored (or you must have received a pardon).
  • In order to participate in an election, a qualified voter must be properly registered no later than thirty (30) days before the election. The election commission office will process any by-mail voter registration form that has been postmarked at least thirty (30) days before the election. T.C.A 2-2-109.[2]

—Tennessee Secretary of State

When and where

You can register to vote by completing a Voter Registration Application and mailing it to your county election commission. You can also register in person at one of the following locations:[3]

  • County Clerk’s Offices
  • County Election Commission Office
  • Department of Health (WIC program)
  • Department of Human Services
  • Department of Mental Health
  • Department of Safety (motor vehicles division)
  • Department of Veteran’s Affairs
  • Public Libraries
  • Register of Deeds Offices[2]

—Tennessee Secretary of State

Registration must be completed 30 days prior to an election.

Online registration

See also: Online voter registration in the 50 states

As of April 2015, Tennessee is one of 30 states that have not implemented full online voter registration.

Voting on Election Day

Voter identification

See also: Voter identification laws by state

At polling places, voters must present government-issued photo identification. Valid forms of ID do not include student ID cards from state universities.[4]

Tennessee's voter ID law has been scrutinized by several courts. On September 26, 2012, a judge ruled that Tennessee's voter ID law did not violate the state constitution.[5][6] On October 25, 2012, the Court of Appeals also upheld Tennessee's voter ID law, though the court did issue an order requiring state officials to accept Memphis library cards as government-issued photo identification. State officials announced plans to appeal this part of the ruling, arguing that library IDs were not valid because they were not issued by the state government.[7] On February 6, 2013, the Tennessee Supreme Court was asked to decide whether the state’s voter ID law deprived citizens of the right to vote, if safeguards should be implemented to prevent election fraud and if a city-issued photo library card could qualify as proper identification.[8] On April 24, 2013, Governor Bill Haslam signed into law a bill that required voters to present photo identification issued by the state of Tennessee or the United States, which rendered library cards and photo identification issued by other states invalid. However, the Tennessee Supreme Court ordered that Memphis Public Library photo IDs be accepted until the court's final ruling.[9][10] In August 2013, before the Tennessee Supreme Court issued its final ruling, the Tennessee Green Party filed a federal lawsuit challenging Tennessee's voter ID law. The Tennessee Green Party argued that the law was unconstitutional and unfair to minority voters.[11] The Tennessee Supreme Court issued its final ruling on the voter ID law on October 17, 2013, upholding the law and allowing the legislature to block the use of library cards as identification.[12]

Poll times

See also: State Poll Opening and Closing Times

In Tennessee, most polling places are open between 7 a.m. and 7 p.m. All precincts close at 8:00 p.m. Eastern and 7:00 p.m. Central. The polls must be open a minimum of 10 hours and may be open for a maximum of 13 hours.[13]

Tennessee is split between Eastern and Central time zones.

Primary voting

Tennessee is one of 14 states that uses an open primary system, in which registered voters do not have to be members of a party to vote in that party's primary.[14][15][16]

Absentee voting

See also: Absentee voting


Voters are eligible to vote absentee in an election if they cannot make it to the polls on Election Day for one of the following reasons:[17]

  • The voter will be outside the county of registration during the early voting period and all day on Election Day;
  • The voter or the voter’s spouse is enrolled as a full-time student in an accredited college or university outside the county of registration;
  • The voter’s licensed physician has filed a statement with the county election commission stating that, in the physician's judgment, the voter is medically unable to vote in person. The statement must be filed not less than seven (7) days before the election and signed under the penalty of perjury;
  • The voter resides in a licensed facility providing relatively permanent domiciliary care, other than a penal institution, outside the voter's county of residence;
  • The voter will be unable to vote in person due to service as a juror for a federal or state court;
  • The voter is sixty (60) years of age or older;
  • The voter has a physical disability and an inaccessible polling place;
  • The voter is hospitalized, ill, or physically disabled and because of such condition, cannot vote in person;
  • The voter is a caretaker of a person who is hospitalized, ill, or disabled;
  • The voter is a candidate for office in the election;
  • The voter serves as an Election Day official or as a member or employee of the election commission;
  • The voter’s observance of a religious holiday prevents him or her from voting in person during the early voting period and on Election Day;
  • The voter or the voter’s spouse possesses a valid commercial drivers license (CDL) or the voter possesses a valid Transportation Worker Identification Credential (TWIC) card and certifies that he or she will be working outside the state or county of registration during the open hours of early voting and Election Day, and has no specific out-of-county or out-of-state address to which mail may be sent or received during such time;
  • The voter is a member of the military or is an overseas citizen.[2]

—Tennessee Secretary of State


To vote absentee a request must be received by the county election commission no earlier than 90 days and no later than seven days prior to the election. The ballot must then be returned by close of polls on Election Day.[17]

Military and overseas voting

For full details regarding military and overseas voting, visit the Federal Voting Assistance Program.

Early voting

See also: Early voting

Tennessee is one of 34 states that has early voting with no specific requirements as to who can vote early. Early voting begins 20 days before Election Day and ends five days prior.[18] The average number of days prior to an election that voters can cast an early ballot is 21 days in states with a definitive starting date.

Election policy ballot measures

Voting on
elections and campaigns
Ballot measures
By state
By year
Not on ballot
See also: Elections and campaigns on the ballot and List of Tennessee ballot measures

Ballotpedia has tracked no ballot measures relating to election and campaign policy in Tennessee

Recent news

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See also

Elections in Tennessee

External links


  1. Tennessee Secretary of State, "Voter Qualifications," accessed June 4, 2014
  2. 2.0 2.1 2.2 Note: This text is quoted verbatim from the original source. Any inconsistencies are attributed to the original source.
  3. Tennessee Secretary of State, "Register to Vote," accessed June 4, 2014
  4. Tennessee Department of Safety and Homeland Security, "Voter Photo ID," accessed June 4, 2014
  5. The Tennessean, "Judge rejects challenge to Voter ID law," September 26, 2012
  6. Reuters, "Tennessee judge tosses challenge to state voter ID law," September 27, 2012
  7. Associated Press, "Tenn. to appeal voter ID ruling over library card," October 25, 2012
  8. The Tennessean, "TN Supreme Court hears voter ID case," February 7, 2013
  9. Associated Press, "Governor signs voter ID measure," April 24, 2013 (dead link)
  10. WREG, "Changes Made To Tennessee Voter ID Policy," April 25, 2013
  11. The Tennessean, "Green Party sues over voter ID law," August 26, 2013
  12. WBIR.com, "TN Supreme Court upholds voter ID law," October 17, 2013
  13. vote411.org, "Voting in Tennessee," accessed January 3, 2014
  14. National Conference of State Legislatures, "State Primary Election Types," accessed January 6, 2014
  15. Fair Vote, "Congressional and Presidential Primaries: Open, Closed, Semi-Closed, and 'Top Two,'" accessed January 6, 2014
  16. Ballotpedia research conducted December 26, 2013, through January 3, 2014, researching and analyzing various state websites and codes.
  17. 17.0 17.1 Tennessee Secretary of State, "Absentee Voting," accessed December 16, 2013
  18. Tennessee Secretary of State, "Early Voting," accessed December 16, 2013