Knox Co. gets to test out convenience voting in 2009

UPDATE 6/5/08 6:47 p.m.: KNOXVILLE, Tenn. (WVLT) -- Presidential elections usually mean a big turnout at the polls, but Tennessee is already looking further down the road as legislators search for ways to make voting easier for you in future elections.

One idea now has the governor's approval, and Knox County will be the first and only Tennessee County to try it.

It's called convenience voting, and if all goes well in Knox County next year, it may be the way everyone in Tennessee votes in the future.

For years it was the same, wait until Election Day, go to your local precinct sometime during the 12 hours, and cast your ballot. Early voting changed that, giving you more choices. Now, the state has given Knox County permission to take the next step in 2009 with something called convenience voting.

"It would be just like early voting, only it will continue through to Election Day."

Knox County Election administrator Greg MacKay says that's not the only change. Voters will no longer be tied down to going to their local precinct. Once the pilot plan begins, the county would have 15 convenience voting locations. Voters could pick any one of them.

MacKay says, "We think it will be better and easier and less confusing for the voter. They won't have to worry about going to the wrong precinct any more and it will just be better for everyone involved."

Better for the election office if it means not having to worry about having 92 separate precincts staffed on Election Day. It’ll be better for voters if it eliminates confusion. But some voters say this may be a case of trying to fix something that's not really broken.

Brian Lewis of Clinton says, “If people just cared about it more, the current system seems to work pretty well. People just need to get more involved in it."

Jennifer Chaffee of Knoxville says, "I moved here from New York about a year ago, and I was curious to see how it would turn out, and it seemed liked it was very convenient."

These changes will not take effect before the presidential election in November.

Knoxville City Council will have to approve the change before it can be used in next year's municipal elections, but once that happens, the community will get a chance to be heard as election officials decide about where to place the convenience voting locations.

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NASHVILLE, Tenn. (AP) -- Gov. Phil Bredesen has signed into law a measure to create a pilot program.

The intent of the measure, which became law this week, is to allow voters to cast ballots at any of several centralized voting areas in the county in which they are registered, regardless of that voter's precinct.

The pilot project will be limited to Knox County. It is among three East Tennessee counties that have received national grants from the Pew Charitable Trusts to test such centers.

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(Copyright 2008 by The Associated Press. All Rights Reserved.)


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