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Early voting for Tennessee August Primary begins July 18th

Tennesseans will begin casting their ballots for the August State Primary on Friday, July 18th.
Tennesseans will begin casting their ballots for the August State Primary on Friday, July 18th.Photo by Kevork Djansezian/Getty Images

In a primary election that is traditionally a low-turnout affair, Tennesseans will go to the polls on Thursday, August 7th for State Primaries and county elections. In fact, Tennesseans have been having some kind of an election on the first Thursday in August since 1797 (Constitution of 1796, Article 1 Section 5). In the early days of Tennessee Statehood, the August election was the one where all State elected officials were finally chosen, and owing to the mode of transportation of those days, and the fact that votes were to be normally cast in the county seat, elections lasted for two days, the ballots were cast in paper and ink or pencil, and the counting for any Statewide polls could take days or even weeks. Candidates standing for legislative seats often had to wait many days as the results came in for geographically larger constituencies, many of which were even more rural than they are in our own day.

We take for granted the notion that today, our ballot is a secret ballot and no one can find out who we actually vote for on the day of an election, or associate our personal vote with our name. That wasn't always the case, either, as voting in late-18th and early-19th Century America, in those days confined only to men, was often a community affair, and the men of a certain county or community would often agree to cast their votes as a block. Most U.S. locations did not move to the current model of the "Australian ballot" until the 1880's.

Today, Tennessee's Statewide General Election is in November, but largely owing to tradition, our State Primary and county General Elections are held on the first Thursday in August. Early voting has become commonplace throughout Tennessee, however, and members of the electorate may begin voting early this Friday, July 18th, and may do so until Saturday, August 2nd. Early voting times and locations can be ascertained by contacting the Election Commission in your Tennessee county.