NASHVILLE, Tenn. — High turnout was reported at several polling locations around Tennessee on Wednesday as the state’s early voting period got underway.
There were problems at multiple precincts in Shelby County when voter cards that are inserted into the voting machines didn’t work, said Robert Meyers, chairman of the county’s election commission. Some people voted with paper ballots, while others decided to vote later, he said.
“It’s not a voting machine problem, it’s an access card problem,” Meyers said, adding that he was not immediately certain how many voters were affected.
Meyers said there were long lines of waiting voters before some early voting precincts opened.
“There is a lot of initial enthusiasm from people for early voting,” he said.
Early voting runs through Nov. 3.
About 59 percent of Tennessee voters cast early or absentee ballots in the last presidential election in 2012. That was down by 1 percentage point from the 2008 presidential election. Early and absentee ballots made up 38 percent of the vote in 2000 and 47 percent in 2004.
Nearly 70 percent of voters cast early and absentee voting in Loudon County in 2012, the highest rate in the state, followed by Williamson, Bradley, Knox and Maury counties. Bledsoe County saw the lowest rate of early voting at 30 percent, followed by Union, Hancock, Marion and Gibson counties.
Tennessee has required voters to present government-issued IDs at polling places since 2012. The law was upheld following a legal challenge later that year.
In that case, the state Court of Appeals also found that an ID issued by public libraries was sufficient to vote. But state lawmakers returned the next year and banned library IDs from being accepted at polling places. Student IDs also don’t meet state standards.