In what a spokesman for U.S. Rep. Jim Cooper, D-Nashville, says may be the first of it’s kind nationally, Cooper is urging local voters to head to the polls early with 14 days of themed voting events featuring community groups and celebrities.
Cooper has long been a proponent of voting rights and VoteEarlyTN is the latest effort to encourage Nashvillians to vote early and reduce exposure to COVID-19 on Election Day.
More than 200 businesses and affinity groups have been educating their constituents and followers about the importance of early voting, absentee voting rules and casting their ballots in November.
“I think Tennessee is a particularly egregious case of (suppressing the vote.) I just feel like trying to make it so that it’s harder to vote is antidemocratic and really kind of a shameful piece of our history here,” said Callie Khouri, the Nashville-based screenwriter, producer and director participating in VoteEarlyTN. “We should be doing everything in our power to counteract that and encourage people to know where they’re going to vote, to make sure they have a plan for voting.”
Tennessee ranks 49th in the country in voter turnout numbers, according to ThinkTennessee, a non-partisan think tank that focuses on civic engagement, and 45th in the country in voter registration.
Complicating elections in 2020 has been the impact of COVID-19 and in Tennessee, legal back and forth over the use of absentee ballots.
Tennessee absentee voting law says that anyone over the age of 60 is eligible to receive an absentee ballot. A voter who is either susceptible to COVID-19 or the caretaker of someone with underlying conditions who is susceptible is also eligible. A full list of conditions qualifying one for absentee voting can be found here.
Celebrities participating include singer-songwriter Jason Isbell, T. Bone Burnett, Ruby Amanfu, Lucinda Williams, Margo Price and Old Crow Medicine Show.
For more information on VoteEarlyTN, to sign up or to learn more about voting in Tennessee, visit https://bit.ly/VoteEarlyTN.