Thursday, November 02, 2006

My beef with Jefferson County

On this last day of early voting in Tennessee, I have a bone to pick with the Jefferson County Election Commission. As regular readers may be aware, my wife and I bought a house here over the summer, and as is customary for me, one of the first things that I did was change my voter registration to Jefferson County to insure that I would be able to exercise my franchise in this important election. In addition to never missing an election, I have a custom of always voting early-usually on the first or second day of the early voting period.

However, since moving to Jefferson County, it has become apparent that I will not be able to continue this tradition unless the county makes a change in it's early voting habits. Like other counties in Tennessee, Jefferson County has early voting, but the only regular designated polling site is the County Courthouse in Dandridge. I live in White Pine, and for those of you who don't know your East Tennessee geography very well, White Pine is on the northeastern edge of Jefferson County and faces Morristown and Hamblen County to the north and east. I am closer to Morristown than I am to Dandridge, and in fact we go to church in Morristown and often do our grocery shopping there.

Regulars probably also know (I know those of you who are personal friends do) that I have a disability which I have had from birth. Early voting has made it much easier to insure that I would be able to cast my ballot. In terms of ease, everything in town here in White Pine is accessable to me so it is just as easy now for me to go to my designated polling place at White Pine Elementary School.

Ease is not the only reason I like to vote early, however. What if some emergency comes up or some unforseen circumstance that makes it impossible for me to get to the polls on election day? Early voting insures that I've cast my vote no matter what might come up in the days ahead. If you vote early, it is like having a sort of voting insurance. Because the county only has one regular designated early voting site, it is virtually impossible for me to find a way to Dandridge while that polling place is still open.

"Oatney, why not get an absentee ballot?" I should not need to go to the trouble of asking for an absentee ballot. I feel that I should have equal access to an early voting place just like every other citizen. There are places right here in White Pine that would make great early voting sites, such as White Pine Town Hall, just a short walk from my house. How about the Methodist Church? Another short walk from my house. I'll bet you could even get Allen-Surrett's Hardware Store to agree to put an early voting place in the back of the hardware store. As unorthodox as that might sound to some, the back of the hardware store is a major community gathering place. I believe the law forbids polling places in a place of business, but Town Hall is an obvious option.

I will vote on Election Day-but we have early voting in this State, and I should have the same option to vote early as every other voter.



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