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VOL. 36 | NO. 41 | Friday, October 12, 2012

Big turnout forecast as Tennessee early voting begins

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NASHVILLE (AP) - Early voting started Wednesday for the Nov. 6 presidential election and Tennessee election officials are anticipating another record turnout.

"Typically every four years a new record is set," said Secretary of State Tre Hargett. "If history is any indication, it will be a record-setting election."

In November 2008, there were about 1.5 million early voters in Tennessee. Early voting this year ends Nov. 1.

Before going to the polls, election officials are reminding voters to adhere to a new state law and have government-issued photo identification when they arrive at the polls. Individuals who don't have a proper ID can vote provisionally.

Voter Magaela Bethune made sure she had the proper information before she arrived at her polling place.

"I came prepared," said the 27-year-old Vanderbilt University graduate student. "And that did make the process go smoother."

David Adams believes the overall earl y voting period is beneficial, particularly for individuals like himself who may not be around Election Day. The 33-year-old Nashville financial planner is going out of the country for a few weeks.

"It's very convenient; I would definitely encourage people to do it," Adams said. "That way if you get to the actual voting day and something happens ... you know that you got your vote in early."

Carl Maxwell agreed.

"I think it makes it a lot easier on the people voting, and on the people who have to run the election," said the 66-year-old Nashville retiree.

Starting this election, Tennessee voters will be able to see the party affiliations of candidates listed on the ballot after a federal appeals court in August cleared the way for the change.

The ruling means that candidates running under the flags of the Green Party and the Constitution Party, as well as Democrats and Republicans, will be identified.

"I'm sure members of those respected par ties are going to appreciate the opportunity to cast the vote for their nominee," Hargett said.

Officials are hoping for a smooth election overall, especially considering the challenges to the new photo ID law.

On Thursday, the Tennessee Court of Appeals is set to hear a challenge from the city of Memphis and two residents who oppose the law amid claims it will disenfranchise those without government-issued photo IDs. Nearly 400,000 people don't have such IDs, including more than 100,000 voters over the age of 60.

Their lawsuit also seeks to force the state to accept the photo ID issued by the Memphis library system.

Courts in Pennsylvania, South Carolina, Texas and Wisconsin have blocked similar laws at least for this year. Mississippi is also delaying its voter ID law.

Hargett said election officials have taken steps to hopefully prevent problems.

"We want people to have a positive Election Day experience," he said. "If people have proble ms ... we encourage them to call us."