Last Updated: October 2020
Polling places in the Eastern Time zone usually open at 8:00 a.m., and close at 8:00 p.m. In the Central time zone, polling places usually open at 7:00 a.m., and close at 7:00 p.m. A voter in line by 8:00 p.m. (EST) or 7:00 p.m. (CST) has the right to vote. Contact your county election commission to find exact opening and closing times for your county.
NOTE: Being more susceptible to contracting COVID-19 or at a greater risk of contracting it or caring for such a person has been added to the list of acceptable reasons to request an absentee ballot. For a list of underlying health conditions that makes a person more susceptible, see here.
How to Find Your Polling Place:
Visit the Tennessee Department of State’s Voter Registration Information Lookup webpage at https://tnmap.tn.gov/voterlookup/.
Registration Deadlines: Individuals must register to vote 30 days prior to the Election Day. The General Election voter registration deadline is Tuesday, October 5, 2020.
How to Check Your Registration: Visit the Tennessee Department of State’s Voter Registration Information Lookup webpage or call 1-866-OUR-VOTE.
Registration Eligibility: In order to vote, Tennessee law requires that you must first register to vote at least 30 days prior to the election. To be eligible to register in Tennessee you MUST:
- Be a United States citizen;
- Be at least eighteen years old on or before the next election;
- Be a resident of Tennessee; and
- Not have been convicted of a felony, or if you have, your voting rights have been restored.
View Guidelines for Determining Residency and special considerations for Homeless Persons Residency and Non-resident Property Owners. There is no length of residency requirement in Tennessee in order to register to vote. You can register at any time.
How to Register:
Tennessee offers online voter registration. You can find Tennessee Online Voter Registration System here.
In-Person or by Mail
You may register to vote in person at your county election commission. You can locate your county election commission here. You can also register in person at your county clerk’s office, public libraries, register of deeds offices, or during a transaction with the Tennessee Department of Health, Department of Human Services, Department of Intellectual and Development Disabilities, Department of Mental Health, Department of Safety (motor vehicles division) or Department of Veteran’s Affairs.
You can also download voter registration forms from the Tennessee Secretary of State’s website here. Applicants can mail completed voter registration forms to their county election commission. Contact information for county election commissions is located here. Applications must be postmarked or hand-delivered by the registration deadline (30 days prior any specific election) to be eligible.
Note that if you register by mail, and plan to vote absentee, rather than in-person, you must submit a copy of your ID when you mail in your absentee by-mail ballot. Acceptable forms of ID include copy of either a current and valid photo identification issued by the federal or Tennessee state government (such as drivers license) or current utility bill, bank statement, government check, paycheck, or other government document that shows the name and address of the voter.
If you submitted a copy of your ID with your by-mail registration form, or registered online through the online registration form, or if you are a UOCAVA voter, an ADA voter with an inaccessible polling place, a voter on the permanent absentee list, or a voter enrolled in the “Safe-at-Home program,” you do not need to send a copy of your ID along with your mail-in absentee ballot.
Identification Required for Registration:
If you are registering to vote in person, you must provide ID and a valid social security number at that time.
If you are registering to vote by mail, you must provide a valid social security number. However, for your first election after registering to vote by mail, you must present at the polling place (or early voting location) either: (a) a current photo ID with your name and photo; or (b) an expired photo ID and one of the following documents that shows your name and address:
- Utility bill;
- Bank statement;
- Government check;
- Paycheck; or
- Other government document.
If You Want to Vote Early
Early voting in person is available to any voter, and a reason for needing to vote early is not required. To vote early, you must appear in person at either the county election commission office or at a satellite voting location opened by the county election commission.
For each election, early voting typically begins 20 days before the election and ends 5 days before the election. For the November 3 general election, early voting begins Wednesday, October 14, 2020 and ends Thursday, October 29, 2020. A person may vote early on any Saturday that falls during this time frame. For details regarding early voting locations and their operating hours, voters should contact their county election commission office.
If You Want to Vote Absentee
Under Tennessee state law, to vote absentee by mail, a voter normally has to provide a reason under one of fourteen narrow categories listed here. This webpage also lists the process for requesting an absentee ballot by mail.
The fourteen categories are:
- You will be outside your county of registration during the early voting period and all day on election day;
- You or your spouse is enrolled as a full-time student in an accredited college or university outside the county of registration;
- Your licensed physician has filed a statement with the county election commission stating that, in the physician’s judgment, you are medically unable to vote in person. This statement must be filed not less than 7 days before the election and signed under the penalty of perjury;
- You reside in a licensed facility providing relatively permanent domiciliary care, other than a penal institution, outside the voter’s county of residence;
- You will be unable to vote in person due to service as a juror for a federal or state court;
- You are 60 years of age or older;
- You have a physical disability and an inaccessible polling place;
- You are hospitalized, ill, or physically disabled and because of such condition, cannot vote in person;
- You are a caretaker of a person who is hospitalized, ill, or disabled;
- You are a candidate for office in the election;
- You serve as an election day official or as a member or employee of the election commission;
- Your observance of a religious holiday prevents you from voting in person during the early voting period and on election day;
- You possess a valid commercial driver license and certifies that they will be working outside the state or county of registration during the early voting period and during all the hours the polls are open on election day and have no specific out-of-county or out-of-state location to which mail may be sent or received during such time; or
- You are a member of the military or an overseas citizen.
Please note: during the pandemic, these categories are modified to indicate that voters at increased risk of COVID-19 complications due to their underlying health condition are qualified to vote by mail in the category of “ill” above. For a list of underlying health conditions that makes a person more susceptible, see here. A physician’s statement is not required.
A September 9, 2020 federal district court ruling now allows first-time voters to vote by mail if they meet the vote-by-mail eligibility requirements. First time voters who registered by mail will need to submit a copy of their ID along with their mail-in absentee ballot.
You may request a by-mail absentee ballot by mailing, faxing, or emailing with an attached document which includes a scanned signature of the following information directly to your county election commission office:
- Your name;
- Address of your residence;
- Your social security number;
- Your date of birth;
- Address to mail the ballot outside the county (this applies only when the reason for voting by mail is where the voter will be outside of the county during early voting and on Election Day);
- The name of the election you wish to participate in. If the election involves a primary, the political party in which the voter wishes to participate;
- Reason you wish to vote absentee; and
- Your signature (if submitted by email, you must scan the document with your signature and send it as an attachment).
You may have anyone you choose write your request for an absentee ballot or for an absentee vote-by-mail application. However, this person is not permitted to make your signature or mark. A request that contains this information will be processed and a ballot will be mailed to the voter. Absentee applications must be received between 90 and 7 days prior to the election in which you wish to vote.
Your voted absentee ballot must be received by your county voter registration office by the close of polls on the day of the election. Be sure to carefully follow the instructions on your absentee ballot. You must return the ballot by mail; hand-delivery is not permitted.
You must sign the oath on the secrecy envelope used to return the absentee ballot. If you cannot sign the oath on your absentee ballot envelope because of a physical disability or illiteracy, the person providing you with assistance and one witness must sign their name and address.
Once the election commission issues an absentee by-mail ballot to a voter, the voter can only vote by mail.
If you requested an absentee ballot but have not yet received your ballot, contact your county election commission to check the status of your ballot (for a list of county commissions see here).
Voting in Person after Requesting an Absentee Ballot
Under Tennessee law, once you have requested an absentee ballot, you cannot vote in person for that election except by provisional ballot.
Identification Requirements to Cast a Ballot
Tennessee law requires that all voters must present a government-issued photo ID containing the voter’s name and photograph at the polls, whether voting early or on Election Day.
Acceptable forms of ID include (even if expired):
- A Tennessee driver’s license with your photo;
- A U.S. passport;
- A photo ID issued by the Tennessee Department of Safety and Homeland Security;
- A photo ID issued by the federal government or Tennessee state government;
- A U.S. military photo ID;
- Employee ID card for retired state employees;
- Employee photo ID issued by the federal or Tennessee state government; or
- Tennessee-issued handgun carry permit with your photo.
You may NOT use:
- College student photo IDs;
- Privately issued photo IDs (such as discount club cards or bank cards); or
- Photo IDs issued by other states or by county or city governments (including library cards).
You are exempt from the ID requirement if:
- You are voting absentee by mail, unless you are a first-time voter who registered by mail – in which case, you will need to provide a copy of your ID when you send in your mail-in ballot.
- You are a resident of a licensed nursing home or assisted living center and you vote at the facility;
- You are hospitalized;
- You have a religious objection to being photographed; or
- You are indigent and unable to obtain a photo ID without paying a fee.
If you do not provide an acceptable government-issued photo ID, you will be required to vote a provisional ballot. In order to have that provisional ballot counted, the voter must return to the election commission’s office to show a valid photo ID within the 2 business days following the election (i.e., November 5, 2020). Upon returning to the election commission office, the voter will sign an affidavit and a copy of the voter’s photo ID will be reviewed by the counting board.
If you are a registered voter and do not have a government-issued photo ID, the Department of Safety and Homeland Security will provide you with a photo ID at no charge. You may obtain a free photo ID to vote from the Department of Safety and Homeland Security at a driver service center. In order to obtain this ID, you must provide:
- Proof of citizenship (such as a birth certificate);
- Two proofs of Tennessee residency (such as a utility bill, vehicle registration/title or bank statement); and
- If your name differs from that on your primary ID, proof of the changed name (such as certified marriage certificate, divorce decree, certified court order, etc.).
If you have a non-photo driver’s license and no other form of valid photo ID, you may visit a driver service center to have your photo added to your license for free upon request. You must sign an affidavit stating that you do not have a valid government-issued photo ID for voting purposes.
Moving within the Same County
The Tennessee voter registration application also serves as an address change request. You may complete and sign the application and either mail, fax, email the document which includes a scanned signature or take the application to the local county election commission office. The application must be signed and received no later than 5 days before the election in order to process the change.
If you do not choose to use the Tennessee voter registration application, you may also submit, in writing, any address change within the county to your local county election commission office. The request must be signed and received no later than 5 days before the election in order to process the change.
If you have not updated your address and the voting period has begun, you are encouraged to vote during the early voting period. The early voting period is from Wednesday, October 14 – Thursday, October 29, 2020. You may go to any early voting location within your county to update your address and vote.
If your address information and your permanent voter registration record differ from your current address on Election Day, you must complete an affidavit before being allowed to vote. You must vote either at the polling location associated with your new address or at a central location designated by the county election commission office.
Moving Between Counties
If you move to a different county, you must re-register to vote, no later than 30 days before the election. To do so, you may either go in person to the local county election commission office or mail the application to their local county election commission office.
If you submit the application by mail, you must vote in person at the first election. These rules apply even if you have been registered and voted in another county in Tennessee.
Registrations do not transfer from county to county and if the above requirements are not met you will not be allowed to vote in that election.
Registering and Requesting an Absentee Ballot
Under federal law, the Federal Post Card Application (FPCA) temporarily registers you to vote and request absentee ballots for a minimum of all federal elections in the current calendar year. Be sure to complete a new FPCA each year and every time your address changes. The FPCA is also known as Standard Form 76. For more information and for a downloadable version of the FPCA visit the Federal Voting Assistance Program’s (FVAP) Tennessee specific page.
Receiving an Absentee Ballot
Military and overseas citizens can send and receive voting materials by mail and email. If you wish to use the email option, you must indicate this on your FPCA. If you do not indicate any preference, you will receive your absentee ballot by postal mail. Once your FPCA is complete it must be mailed to your election official. Contact information can be found in the “Local Election Offices” section on the FVAP website.
Federal Write-In Absentee Ballot
If you requested your absentee ballot and haven’t received it from your election commission at least 30 days before the election, you can use the Federal Write-In Absentee Ballot (FWAB). The FWAB is an emergency backup ballot. This backup ballot can be completed using the FWAB online assistant, by filling out the PDF or picking up a hard copy version from your Voting Assistance Officer. The online assistant will guide you through the process of completing the form. Once you complete the form, you will be able to download and print the PDF package to sign and send to your election office. This PDF package even includes a pre-addressed and postage paid label so you don’t have to worry about finding stamps! Don’t forget a security envelope. (Use a separate blank envelope and write “Security Envelope” on it and place your voted ballot in it. This keeps your vote private.)
All persons convicted of a felony on or after May 18, 1981, except for some felonies, such as murder, rape, treason or voter fraud, may apply to the Board of Probation and Parole for voting restoration upon completion of their sentence.
In general, if you have been convicted of a disenfranchising felony and would like to have your voting rights restored, you must either:
- Receive a pardon which contained no special conditions pertaining to the right to vote; or
- Apply to the Board of Probation and Parole for voting restoration upon completion of your sentence. Completion of a sentence can include:
- serving the term of incarceration and being granted final release from incarceration ;completing all terms of parole
- completing all terms of probation
- paying any restitution, child support, or court costs “fines and fees” ordered by the court as part of your sentence
For more information on applying to have your voting rights restored, visit the Secretary of State’s Election site page on voting rights restoration at https://sos.tn.gov/products/elections/restoration-voting-rights. You can also access the Restoration of Rights Form on the Secretary of State’s website, or at https://sos-tn-gov-files.s3.amazonaws.com/forms/ss-3041.pdf.
Documents are being updated.