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Staff photo by Ben Benton / Voters casting ballots at the Brainerd BX early Tuesday said they spent between 30 and 40 minutes in a line that seemed to dwindle at first but then surged as more people showed up. Other locations had a wait of an hour or more, elections officials said.

There were some long lines, especially in more rural areas, as polls Tuesday opened for Election Day in Chattanooga, where turnout appears as strong as it was during early voting.

At 8 a.m., the line at the Brainerd BX extended to the entrance door and the wait time for some who came early was almost an hour. Most people waited in line a half hour or a little more.

Likewise, the line for East Ridge precincts 1, 2, 3 and 4 at Camp Jordan was out the door into the parking lot shortly after polls opened Tuesday but grew shorter toward lunchtime, according to some voters headed out to the parking lot.

One woman who had just cast her ballot but declined to give her name said she'd waited about 40 minutes or a little less. She said she saw no problems and noted that the voting system used at the Camp Jordan poll "seemed as secure as you're going to get it."

Downtown, the line at the Glenwood precinct on 3rd Street was much shorter, though it reached the door and the parking lot was filled to capacity, but at another location not far away voting was a breeze.

Gil and Julie Milton said they stood in line at the Missionary Ridge precinct only about four minutes. The couple said there was no particular reason they didn't early vote, and they were confident in the election system.

Kristi Berry, office manager at the Hamilton County Election Commission, said voting was going smoothly and many precincts had long lines.

(LIVE COVERAGE: 2020 Election Day in the Chattanooga area)

"It's a little crazy," she said a little after 11 a.m. "There's a lot of lines, 200 to 300 people in line at a time and sometimes an hour-and-a-half wait, but it's going smoothly."

Rural precincts in Hamilton County seemed to have the longest lines as Election Day approached the noon hour, Berry said.

"Our more rural areas that do not have close early voting locations, they are the ones that have the longer lines," she said. "Soddy-Daisy, their lines are fairly long; Apison, their lines are fairly long."

Through the first half of the day there was had been only one mechanical problem, she said.

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Election Day in the Chattanooga area

"We had a machinery problem out in East Ridge but we were able to get it replaced quickly," Berry said. "When there's a problem, we can go ahead and accept the voter's ballot and put it into the emergency ballot compartment. And then once they get the machine fixed we can get those ballots run through, and we have a Democrat and [a] Republican stand there while we run them through."

A case of coronavirus didn't keep some ill voters from the polls. Berry said the line of voters at the Election Commission's COVID-19 designated polling location was outside and around the building just before lunchtime.

Berry said the Hamilton County Health Department had staff at the commission office to help voters with health problems while election commission staff handled the technical end.

Berry said voters have been dutifully wearing their masks and waiting patiently in lines.

"They're friendly, they're happy to be out there, they just know this is an important election," she said. "Just have some patience."

Election officials remind that everyone who is in the line to vote at 8 p.m. EST will be allowed to cast their ballots.

Tennessee voters are encouraged to call the Division of Elections' toll-free Election Day hotline at 1-877-850-4959, according to a statement issued early Tuesday by Secretary of State Tre Hargett.

"Our office is here to assist voters casting their ballots and to preserve the integrity of our election," Hargett said. "If you have questions or concerns, please call our Election Day hotline."

Tennessee voters can find their Election Day polling location, hours of operation and sample ballot on the GoVoteTN app or online at GoVoteTN.com. Download the GoVoteTN app for free in the App Store or Google Play.

If you're unsure where to vote, the polling location should be on your voter registration card. But if you need to double check, go to bit.ly/tn-vote-info.

Voters will need either a Tennessee government or federal government-issued photo ID to cast a ballot.

A number of IDs can be used, even if they have expired, but out-of-state government IDs or college IDs are not acceptable. The list of acceptable IDs includes:

* A Tennessee driver license with your photo.

* Photo ID issued by the Tennessee Department of Safety and Homeland Security.

* Photo ID issued by the federal or Tennessee state government.

* United States military photo ID.

* Tennessee handgun carry permit with your photo.

* United States passport.

Contact Ben Benton at bbenton@timesfreepress.com or 423-757-6569. Follow him on Twitter @BenBenton or at www.facebook.com/benbenton1.

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