Absentee voting helps military
by RICK NORTON, Associate Editor
Jul 05, 2010 | 1236 views | 0 0 comments | 10 10 recommendations | email to a friend | print
When early voting became a state mandate 16 years ago, it gave Bradley County voters the option of casting their ballots sometime over a two-week period prior to election day; hence, the need for absentee voting by mail didn’t affect as many people.

Yet, the opportunity to cast an absentee ballot is still a critical part of the election process, according to Fran Green, elections administrator who invites area voters to contact the Bradley County Election Commission Office with their questions, or to visit the organization’s popular website at www.bradleyelections.com.

Two groups that likely will always have a need for absentee balloting access are military personnel and United States citizens living outside the country.

According to the election commission’s website, the right to vote by absentee ballot by mail is granted by Tennessee Code Annotated 2-6-502 statute. It specifies that to vote absentee an individual must fall into one of two categories: military personnel or a civilian living outside the country.

A description of each reads:

- Military Personnel: Persons who are United States citizens, residents of Tennessee and members of the Uniformed Services (i.e., armed forces personnel), and their family members.

- Civilians Outside United States: Persons who are United States citizens, residents of Tennessee and who are currently residing overseas.

The website also answers some frequently-asked questions; namely, “Must I already be a registered voter to vote in Tennessee pursuant to this provision?”

The answer, which might surprise some, is “no.”

It reads, “If you meet the qualifications to register to vote in Tennessee, but have not registered prior to requesting an absentee ballot and you fall into one of the above categories (military and residing out-of-country), your application for absentee ballot will be treated as an application for temporary registration.”

Military personnel or those residing out-of-country are asked to use “Form 76” which is available on military bases from voting assistance officers or from the U.S. Embassy. Anyone who is unable to obtain one of these forms may submit a written request as outlined on the website under “Absentee Voting.”

Anyone wishing to vote in a primary election must state which political primary in which they want to participate. This is the same practice as voting in person at Bradley County polling stations during primary elections.

Absentee voters are also reminded on the website: “It is important to notify us if your address changes. You will be mailed ballots for each election for two federal election cycles. For example, if you send a ‘Form 76’ in February 2004, we will mail you ballots through November 2006.”

Bradley County voters with further questions about absentee balloting by mail may contact the Election Commission Office at 423-728-7115. The office’s fax number is 423-728-7116. Requests for absentee ballot applications should be mailed to: Bradley County Election Commission, 155 Broad St. N.W., Cleveland, TN 37311.

Deadline for requesting an absentee ballot for the Aug. 5 election is July 29. Deadline to register to vote in the election either in early voting or on the day of the election is July 6. Early voting will be held July 16-31.