Report: State should expand voter education, registration deadlines

Published 12:00 pm Wednesday, August 30, 2023

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The Center Square

Tennessee should expand voter education, allow in-person return of absentee ballots and expand convenience voting centers, according to nonpartisan policy organization ThinkTN.

The group recently came out with data regarding the state’s 2022 elections and policy recommendations for the future.

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“While Tennessee’s voter turnout continues to trail other states, policymakers should consider additional opportunities to further strengthen our state’s election systems and help encourage participation” the group said in its report.

Just 38.6% of registered voters cast ballots in 2022, which was lower than other recent statewide elections but slightly higher than the 2014 midterm which also had an incumbent governor.

In November, 53.9% of state legislative races had only one candidate. The U.S. Census Bureau estimates showed just 44.5% of Tennessee’s estimated eligible voting population voted in November 2022, which was well below the 52.2% national average and ranked 48th, ahead of just Arkansas, Indiana and West Virginia.

ThinkTN’s research showed voters continued to miss the registration deadline, meaning it would be beneficial to voter involvement if those dates were extended.

“More Tennessee voters have cast their ballots during early voting than on election day, but this midterm, votes were split nearly evenly between the two — with 49.3% on election day and 48.1% during early voting,” the report said. “After a spike in absentee voting in 2020 during the pandemic, rates returned to their previous trends, with only 2.6% of ballots cast via absentee.”