To the editor,

The Progressive Rural Overhill Women for Democracy want to make sure that all Monroe County voters know that they have the option of voting by mail in the Aug. 6 election.

As the coronavirus is continuing to spread throughout our community, many citizens are taking every possible precaution to protect their health and that of their loved ones. Thanks to a June court ruling, voters can avoid the risks associated with in-person voting and can utilize the expanded safe and secure by-mail voting option instead.

Any registered voter who has registered in person or voted in person at least once can request an application for a vote by mail ballot from the Monroe County Election Commission using the form available at www.monroecountyelectioncommission.com under the "forms" tab.

The application asks you to provide the reason you are requesting to vote by mail. Anyone 60 years old or older can check that box. Anyone under 60 that is concerned about COVID-19 can check the box that corresponds to that statement. In addition, there are other reasons under which you may qualify, such as working outside the county, attending school outside your county of residence, etc.

The form also asks for your phone number so the election commission can call you if there is a problem and it asks for your social security number and signature, which is then checked against your signature on file at the election commission office to verify your identity.

Once the election commission verifies your application, they will mail you an absentee ballot. The ballot will have a unique number, which you should record and retain for your records. You should follow all included instructions to complete the ballot and return it by mail back to the election commission as soon as possible since they must receive it by election day in order for your vote to be counted.

When the election commission receives your ballot, they open the outer envelope, verify your signature once again, record your ballot as received and store it in a locked box until election day when it will be counted. You can even go to the Tennessee Secretary of State’s website to confirm that your ballot was received.

In preparation for counting the ballots, the county election commissioners appoint registered voters to constitute a Counting Board, which consists of an officer and at least three judges and, if the number of ballots warrants it, additional judges may be appointed, and the commissioners are not involved in the verification or counting process.

A well-established, state-regulated vote-by-mail program and process has been in place for over 50 years for certain groups of voters, but in light of the tragic uptick in confirmed COVID-19 cases in Tennessee, all voters are being offered this secure, safe, easy and smart way to vote.

Protect yourself and democracy this year. Commit to vote, get informed and vote safely and securely by mail.

Respectfully,

Pam Weston

Sweetwater

Vice president of Progressive Rural Overhill Women for Democracy

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