Early voting for the March 6 primary elections, including the presidential preference primary, begins today and continues through Feb. 28 in the basement of Bedford County Courthouse.
This is the first statewide election in which voters are required to show photo identification prior to casting their ballots.
Bedford County Administrator of Elections Summer Leverette is encouraging voters to take advantage of early voting.
"Early voting offers a convenient way for voters to cast their ballots without worrying about making it to the polls on Election Day," said Leverette in a news release. "The added flexibility allows individuals to work voting into their already busy schedules."
Early voting hours are 8 a.m. until 4:30 p.m. Monday through Wednesday; 8 a.m. until 5:30 p.m. on Thursday; 7 a.m. until 4 p.m. Friday; and 9 a.m. until noon on Saturday. The office will be closed Monday, Feb. 20, for Presidents' Day.
New laws require that voters present photo ID at the polls.
Voters over the age of 60 who have driver's licenses without photos and no other form of valid photo IDs for voting may have their photos added to their licenses free of charge.
Examples of acceptable photo IDs, even if expired, include: a Tennessee driver's license with a photo, a United States passport, a Department of Safety photo ID, a United States military photo ID, a state-issued handgun carry permit, or any other photo ID issued by the federal or state government, except college student IDs.
"I thank the county election officials and others who have worked diligently to ensure that voters are aware of the new requirement," said Secretary of State Tre Hargett in a news release. "I am confident that their hard work will make this historic election a success."
Department of Safety photo IDs can be obtained from the local driver's license center, located at 1304 Railroad Ave.
People who forget to bring photo IDs with them to the polls can cast provisional ballots, and then return to their local county election commission office within two business days after the election to present valid photo IDs.
For more information about the photo ID law, call (877) 850-4959 or go to www.GoVoteTN.com. On the local ballot will be a presidential primary, as well as primary elections for county road superintendent and property assessor.
Because Tennessee does not register voters by party, anyone can choose to vote in either the Democratic primary or the Republican primary (but not both, at least not for the same election).
On the Democratic primary ballot, President Barack Obama is unopposed except for the option to vote for a slate of uncommitted delegates to the Democratic National Convention. Also unopposed are incumbent Road Superintendent Stanley Smotherman and incumbent Assessor of Property Ronda Clanton.
No one qualified to run as a Republican or an independent for either of those county offices, so Smotherman and Clanton will also be unopposed on the August general election ballot.
Because of qualifying deadlines, the Republican ballot includes candidates who have dropped out of the presidential race since the ballot was finalized. On the ballot in Tennessee are Michele Bachmann, Newt Gingrich, Jon Huntsman, Gary Johnson, Ron Paul, Rick Perry, Charles "Buddy" Roemer, Mitt Romney and Rick Santorum, plus the option to vote for a slate of uncommitted Republican National Convention delegates. Gingrich, Paul, Roemer, Romney and Santorum are still active GOP candidates. Bachmann and Perry have dropped out. Johnson, after originally campaigning as a Republican, has dropped out of the GOP race and is now seeking the Libertarian Party nomination.
While the Democratic primary ballot includes only the name of the presidential candidate, the Republican primary ballot is more complex. Voters can choose their favorite candidate, but in a separate race they are also asked to vote for the actual delegates who will represent Tennessee at the party convention. Those delegates are listed by candidate, so you will know which ones support which candidate. There's a race for at-large delegates and a separate race for delegates representing the 6th Congressional District.