Early voting in the federal and state primary and county general election will begin Friday.
Assessor of property, school board and constable will be on the ballot, as will primaries for United States Senate and House of Representatives and State Senate and House of Representatives.
In the Republican primary for state senate, incumbent senator Paul Rose of Covington is being opposed by Scott Throckmorton of Shelby County. Bill Hagerty and Dr. Manny Sethi are battling in the Republican primary for the U.S. Senate seat that’s been held by Lamar Alexander since 2003.
And voting will look a little different, thanks to COVID-19.
Voters will be given a glove for their dominant hand upon entering the polling place. You will be asked to discard it when you leave and offered hand sanitizer before receiving your “I voted” sticker.
While waiting in line you will have to stay six feet apart from the person next to you.
All poll workers will be wearing masks, machines will be sanitized between voters and there will be a lot of plexiglass to keep people safe.
It’s been a lot extra work for Tipton County Election Commission employees.
“It’s been more challenging because we’ve had to acquire materials to sanitize,” said Cindy Pinner, administrator of elections., said last month. “You know that finding hand sanitizer and wipes can be difficult. Finding everything we need and finding a place to put all of it has been challenging … I have stuck stuff in every nook and cranny we have.”
And then there’s the whole absentee voting thing.
The state law changed amid the coronavirus pandemic allowing anyone with a fear of the virus to submit an absentee ballot. Previously you had to meet certain criteria, like being ill or elderly, to cast an absentee ballot.
Pinner said she does not expect that to be much of an issue during this election. However, when Nov. 6 rolls around and the country is electing a president, she believes there could be a ton of absentee ballots.
The largest number of absentee ballots in recent years has been 489.
“You just don’t know what you’re going to be facing for this election,” Pinner said. “Right now there’s not a really large number of people voting absentee, but November is going to be a different animal. We’ll have to see where that leads. We may need additional equipment. If we have thousands upon thousands of absentee ballots we will probably have to relocate to tally because we won’t have the room here to accommodate all the machines you’ll need to count all the absentee ballots. They’ll have to have room to spread out. That’s the main thing I’ve been struggling with the past several weeks, figuring out what is possible.”
Anyone who wants to cast an absentee ballot needs to call the Tipton County Election Commission at 476-0223 to request an application be sent to them. The deadline to do that for the Aug. 6 election is July 30.
The absentee ballot must be mailed to the commission.
“A lot of people try to hand us their ballots,” Pinner said. “We can’t accept them. They’re usually not too happy when we tell them we can’t accept it.”
Early voting for the Aug. 6 election will continue through Aug. 1.
There will be two locations: the Tipton County Election Commission, at 113 E. Church Street in Covington, and First Baptist Church, at 102 Kimbrough Avenue in Atoka.
Early voting will be conducted from 8:30 a.m. to 5 p.m. on Mondays, Wednesdays and Fridays; 8:30 a.m. to 6 p.m. on Tuesdays and Thursdays; and Saturdays 8:30 a.m. to noon.
Local races in November include Atoka aldermen, Brighton mayor and aldermen, Burlison city council, Covington aldermen, Gilt Edge mayor and aldermen, Mason aldermen and Munford mayor and aldermen.
For more information, see https://www.tiptonco.com/election_commission/index.php.