Tennessee Absentee Ballot Guide

Last updated June 16, 2014
Military and Overseas voters should visit the Overseas Vote Foundation. Long Distance Voter's information should only be used by voters with US mailing addresses.

First-time voters who register to vote by mail cannot vote by absentee ballot. These voters must vote in person.

Important Deadlines

  • Voter Registration: Postmarked 30 days before the election
  • Absentee Ballot Application: Received by the Tuesday before the election
  • Voted Absentee Ballot: Received via mail by close of polls on Election Day

How to vote by absentee ballot

Register to vote

Recommended: use our Voter Registration Tool.  Enter your information, print and sign the completed form, and mail it to the address printed on the form. 

If you don't want to use the widget, you can download and complete the Tennessee Voter Registration FormSign the form and mail it to your County Election Commission.

Verify your voter registration

It's best to verify your voter registration before applying for your absentee ballot.  If there's a problem with your registration, register again before proceeding.

NOTE: Most people receive their voter registration cards in the mail 2-3 weeks after registering to vote. Don't worry if you lost your voter registration card. You don't actually need it to vote.

Make sure you're eligible to vote by absentee ballot

Tennessee calls absentee ballots "by-mail ballots."  You may not vote a by-mail ballot if you are a first-time voter who registered to vote by mail.  You may vote by absentee ballot if you meet at least one of the following requirements:  

  • you will be outside the county of registration during the early voting period and all day on election day;
  • you or your spouse are enrolled as a full-time student in an accredited college or university outside the county of registration;
  • a licensed physician has filed a statement with the county election commission stating that, in the physician's judgment, you are medically unable to vote in person. The statement must be filed not less than five (5) days before the election and signed under the penalty of perjury;
  • you reside in a licensed facility providing relatively permanent domiciliary care, other than a penal institution, outside the voter's county of residence;
  • you will be unable to vote in person due to service as a juror for a federal or state court;
  • you are sixty (60) years of age or older;
  • you have a physical disability and an inaccessible polling place;
  • you are hospitalized, ill, or physically disabled and because of such condition, cannot vote in person;
  • you are the caretaker of a person who is hospitalized, ill, or disabled;
  • you are a candidate for office in the election;
  • you serve as an election day official or as a member or employee of the election commission;
  • you will be observing a religious holiday which prevents you from voting in person during the early voting period and on election day;
  • you possess a valid commercial driver license and you certify that you will be working outside the state or county of registration during the early voting period and all day on election day;
  • you are a member of the military or is an overseas citizen.

Apply for you absentee ballot

A registered voter may apply for an absentee ballot no earlier than ninety (90) days before the election and no later than seven (7) days before the election. 

Download, complete, print, and sign your Tennessee Absentee Ballot Application.  Mail your completed application to your County Election Commission

To be processed for the next election, the application must be received by your County Election Commission no later than seven (7) days before the election.  You may submit your absentee ballot application by mail or by fax

Receive, complete, and return your absentee ballot

The ballot itself is pretty straightforward.  Fill it out, seal the envelope, and sign where indicated.  If someone helped you fill out the absentee ballot, they must also sign where indicated.  Mail your absentee ballot back to your County Election CommissionYou cannot hand-deliver your ballot.  Your ballot must be received by the close of polls on election day. 

Frequently Asked Questions

I am a first time Tennesee voter.  Can I vote by absentee ballot?

If you registered to vote in person, you may vote by absentee ballot.  If you registered to vote by mail, you cannot vote by absentee ballot.  You must vote in person the first time you vote. 

Do I need to provide ID when I register to vote?

If you are registering for the first time in Tennessee, you must include a copy of your ID with your voter registration form, or you must show ID the first time you vote at the polls.  Acceptable forms of ID include the following:  a current voter registration card; a current Tennessee Driver's License; or a photo ID which includes your NAME and SIGNATURE.

If you have none of the above items, must provide a combination of one item from List A AND one option from List B below:

List A: A current & valid photo I.D. of any kind, either government- issued or private, not containing a voter’s signature; OR a current utility bill; OR a bank statement; a government check; OR a paycheck; OR any other government document(s) that show the your NAME and ADDRESS; PLUS:

List B: either A) Show ANY document with your NAME and SIGNATURE (Examples: Social security card, credit card with a signature, any other document which has the voter’s name and signature.); or B) SIGN an official AFFIDAVIT OF IDENTITY form provided by the polling place officials (does not require a notary).

Do I need to provide ID when I vote by absentee ballot?

You do not need to provide ID if you've already voted in Tennessee at least once, or if you registered to vote in person.

When is the earliest I can apply for an absentee ballot?

In Tennessee, you may request an application for by-mail voting no earlier than 90 days before the election.

Can I hand-deliver my voted by-mail (absentee) ballot?

No. Tennessee's by-mail ballot must be received by the county election commission office through the postal mail.

I've already received by absentee ballot.  Can I change my mind and vote in person?

Once the Tennessee election commission issues your absentee ballot, you cannot change your mind and vote in person.  You can only vote by mail.

Can I vote by absentee ballot on a permanent basis?

Registered Tennessee voters who are unable to vote in person due to medical disability may request to be permanent absentee voters. If you wish to be a permanent absentee voter, you must have your licensed physician complete and file a Physician's Statement with the Election Commission. By completing and signing this statement, your physician swears under penalty of perjury that you are medically unable to vote in person.

Once you become a permanent absentee voter, you will no longer need to request an absente ballot for every election.  Instead, the Election Commission will automatically you an absentee ballot application.  

If you sign and return the application indicating that you would like to vote, the Election Commission will mail you a ballot prior to Election Day. If you indicate that you do not wish to vote, or if you do not return the application, the Election Commission will not mail you a ballot for that election. You will remain on permanent absentee status, and the Election Commission will mail you a new application to vote before the next election.

Can I vote in person before the election?

Yes. Check out our Early Voting page for details.

Additional Information

State Election Website: http://www.tennessee.gov/sos/election/
Email: tennessee.elections@state.tn.us
Local Election Officials: Your Local Election Official is the best person to contact if you have voting-related questions.  They'll be able to provide up-to-date information on rules and deadlines. 


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