BY ALEXANDER WILLIS
With election season fast approaching, the Williamson County Election Commission announced on Thursday that the county would see a significant reduction in voting locations for the upcoming presidential primary election in March. While the announcement appears counterintuitive to producing a higher voter turnout, the reduction in voting locations is actually a part of a new pilot program that will allow for voters to vote at any precinct within Williamson County — a measure the commission expects will drastically increase voter turnout.
“It is basically like early voting; voters can go to any location that’s open on election day,” said Election Administrator Chad Gray. “We’ll have the same election day hours, but if you live in Spring Hill and you want to stop at the Brentwood Library on your way to Nashville to work, you can do it. That’s something that we’re really excited about.”
“We will have a reduction in the number of polling places, because we can’t have 43 locations like we do currently, so we’ll have approximately 26 election day voting center sites that will be geographically spread out throughout the county.”
The pilot program was started in Rutherford County with Williamson County being only one of three counties in the state to experiment with the new program. Currently, only 13 states in the country have similar means of non precinct-restricted voting, a measure that has been shown to produce a higher voter turnout.
“Everything will be computerized, we’ll have hard-wiring, and there’s no WiFi involved in this process,” Gray explained. “You’ll be able to change your address if you moved and vote at any location.”
Regarding the ability for voters to update their address at voting locations on election day, Gray said the first county to experiment with the pilot program in Tennessee, Rutherford County, saw address changes increase “tremendously on election day.”
“A lot of voters, if they show up at the wrong place, sometimes they’ll just say, ‘I don’t have time to go anywhere else,’ and this will eliminate all of that,” Gray said. “No one will ever get the wrong place, you can vote at any location that’s open for that purpose, and the locations that we are closing will be marked with a sign with all 26 sites on it.”
The presidential primary elections will be held on March 3, 2020. Early voting will be from February 12 through February 25, 2020, with the deadline for voters to register on Monday, February 3, 2020. For more information on voting in Williamson County, click here.