Not only will more than 300 newly registered teenage voters be prepared to cast ballots in the primary election on July 31, they will have a new advance voting site.
Last December, the County Commission approved a request for a second early/advance voting site to better serve those living in the western portion of Catoosa County. The U.S. Department of Justice has given the go-ahead that allows the Westside Precinct building adjacent Westside Elementary School to serve as an advance voting site for Catoosa County's registered voters.
"The school has been a regular polling place," said the county's chief election officer Tonya Moore. "Beginning on July 9, it will be available for advance voting in the primary and will serve as an advance voting site during the general election in November."
Moore said those wanting to vote in advance of Election Day now have a choice of casting ballots at the Election Commission office next to the courthouse in Ringgold or at the elementary school, located on Lakeview Drive near the intersection with Cloud Springs Road.
Adding a second site had been something election and elected officials wanted for several years; the passage of H.B. 92 during the state legislative session of 2011 made it possible. That piece of legislation trimmed the number of days when early voting can take place before an election. Rather than 45 days for advance voting, the number is now 21 days.
State law requires three poll workers be present any time a polling place is open, so cutting the number of days meant the Election Commission could hire enough workers to simultaneously staff two advance sites.
Having fewer days to advance vote could have resulted in waiting in lines at a single location, but with the addition of Westside, voters can pick between the two sites for advance voting. Those voting on Election Day must go to their assigned precincts to cast their ballots, Moore said.
Those choosing to vote ahead of the July 31 primary will be able to vote at either location between the hours of 8 a.m. and 5 p.m. Monday through Friday beginning on July 9.
Moore said hours will be extended until 7 p.m. on Thursday, July 27, and both locations will be open for voting on Saturday, July 21, between the hours of 9 a.m. and 4 p.m.
"The last day we can issue an absentee ballot by mail is on Friday, July 27, and no voting is allowed on the Monday before Election Day," she said. "That means no one can cast a ballot on July 30."
Polls statewide are open from 7 a.m. until 7 p.m. on Election Day, Tuesday, July 31.