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Farragut poised to lead nation in ‘convenience voting’

Farragut’s upcoming municipal election could be the first place convenience voting is used nationwide.

“This is a pilot project the state legislature approved for us last year,” said Greg Mackay, Knox County Election Commission director, adding Knox County Election Commission has been working on the project for nearly 15 years.

Convenience, or “centralized” voting, effectively combines early voting with the actual voting day to create a “voting period,” Mackay said.

“What we’ll be doing is conflating early voting and election day,” Mackay said.

Convenience voting allows voters from any precinct participating in the election to vote at any of a number of designated, centralized polling places, beginning 20 days before election day and continuing to the actual day.

“In the city election this fall, you used to have 52 precincts, and we’d have four or five or six early voting sites.

“They’d open 20 days before election day, and then five days before, they’d close for a period, then for election day they’d open,” Mackay said.

“We’re going to have a voting period that starts 20 days before the election and ends on election day. It’ll be open the whole time, except Sundays,” he added.

“It’s a little bit different for Farragut because they only have one polling place,” Mackay said, although he added Farragut does have a significant advantage that comes with convenience voting.

“We used to do early voting at the Town Hall and then we’d have to go to [Farragut] High School for election day. It was very confusing for the voters,” he said.

Now all voting will take place at Town Hall, if Farragut’s Board of Mayor and Aldermen and the Election Commission each vote to participate in the pilot project.

Mackay said the change is being made primarily to improve each voter’s experience.

“It’ll be easier and less confusing for the voter,” Mackay said, mentioning citizens new to the area or who have moved tend to have confusion about where they should vote.

Early voting allows voters to vote at any of a number of designated areas. The same idea will be carried over to convenience voting.

“Two-thirds of the people who voted in the last presidential election used early voting. For them, there will be no change at all,” he said.

“It will be easier. You can vote before the election, you can vote election day, whatever you want to do,” he added.

Convenience voting also will greatly diminish the possibility of voter fraud, Mackay said.

Votes will be recorded on a central computer in real time, eliminating the possibility anyone can vote more than once at a different polling place.

Convenience voting has not been enacted anywhere else in the nation.

“This is brand new, this is the first time it’s been used anywhere,” Mackay said.

“There are places that have done voting centers on election day … so you could go on election day and you could go to any of the centers and vote once.

“But no one has taken early voting and election day and put them together,” he added.

“A lot of times these small towns, and even the states, are the incubators for changing things. You don’t come in and change these things nationwide, you go to a local level and try them out, and that’s what we’re going to do here,” Mackay said.

The Board of Mayor and Aldermen will consider participating in convenience voting at its next meeting, Thursday, Jan. 8.


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