TSS Blog

Voting, Elections, and Questions You Might Be Scared to Ask Part I

The election process can often be intimidating. Who do you vote for? How do you know when and where to vote? While these questions are straightforward for some, the election process and candidate choices can feel overwhelming. With that understanding in mind, Tennesseans for Student Success wants to break down some of the most commonly asked questions that, we hope, will help you make informed decisions at the ballot box this year and for years to come. The reality is, the people we vote to represent us in local and federal elections have significant influence over Tennessee’s one million students and their futures, so it’s crucial we get this right.

Why should I vote in a primary election?

Primary elections are important because it’s your opportunity to choose the candidate you want to run in the general election for a specific political party. In Tennessee, our primaries are open. This means when you go to your polling location, you declare your political party preference at your polling place to select your ballot, and then based on your decision, you will vote for candidates running to be the nominee for offices within that party. See who is on your primary ballot and find your County Election Commission here.

What’s the difference between a primary and general election?

Elections are a two-step process to determine the winning candidate. The primary election is the first step with different states holding different types of primaries. Tennessee’s primary is open. There are four basic types of primary elections. These are:

  • Open primaries, where anyone of any political party affiliation may vote
  • Closed primaries, where only those voters registered with that particular political party may vote
  • Jungle primaries, where everyone running for office is lumped together on the ballot regardless of party or no party affiliation. If someone gets over 50% of the vote, that person is elected to the office. If no one gets over 50% of the vote, then the top two (regardless of party) advance a run-off election.
  • Run-off primaries, where a few states hold a second primary between the two candidates with the most votes

The general election, scheduled to be held on November 3, 2020, is the vote that establishes the winner of each office. Every eligible voter may cast a ballot for the candidate they want in office.

Who am I voting for in the August primary?

The August 6th primary – with early voting from July 17th to August 1st – will have candidates running for the U.S. Senate and U.S. Congress, and candidates for the Tennessee State House and State Senate. Just as important, school board member primaries are also voted on during the primary. You’ll also find other local elected positions like judges, property assessors, and state executive committee members to your party of choice. State primaries are also often the county “general election” for school board members, so it’s critical to get out and vote in August (or during early voting in July) to select your representation for the school board.

Am I registered to vote?

Whether you’ve moved, haven’t voted in a while, or can’t find your voter registration card – you might be wondering about your voter registration status. You can easily find your voter registration status at the TSS Civic Action Center. What if you know you are registered to vote, but can’t find your voter registration card? No problem! All you need is a photo ID to vote at your polling place. Additionally, in 2020, if you are a registered voter and do not wish to vote in person due to COVID-19 concerns, you can request an absentee ballot by mail.

The Tennessee Secretary of State’s office is a great resource for election, polling, and additional questions you may have. Check out their website here for further information.

Any additional questions? Feel free to contact our Policy and Outreach Manager, Jessica Whitmill for more information or questions.

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