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Staff Photo by Matt Hamilton / Voters wait in line to vote at the Hamilton County Election Commission on Oct. 29, 2020, the final day for early voting in Tennessee.

The Hamilton County Election Commission has sent out more than 5,000 notices to residents inquiring about possible changes of address ahead of the May 3 primary elections.

The green cards that voters may receive in their mail are known as confirmation notices, said Nate Foster, assistant administrator of elections, in a Friday phone interview. In total, 5,342 notices were sent to voters this year, and 10,000 were mailed last year.

"The confirmation notice is a forwardable mail piece used by election commissions across Tennessee as a way to perform voting list maintenance," Foster said.

(READ MORE: How did Hamilton County redistricting change the political map?)

The most common reasons for a notice are if mail from the commission was returned, an address change was reported by the United States Postal Service or discrepancies between voter registration addresses and residential addresses of record, Foster added.

The confirmation notice puts a resident's voter registration on inactive status until the commission receives a response, according to a notice obtained by the Times Free Press.

If the recipient does not respond within 30 days, they may have to vote by using a provisional ballot in the upcoming election, the notice states.

Their registration will be canceled if they do not vote or update their registration before two federal elections take place.

It is unclear how many of the notifications have been sent out statewide, as that is not handled by the state, said Julia Bruck, spokesperson for Secretary of State Tre Hargett, in a Friday email.

"Confirmation notices are sent out by county election commissions to ensure they have the voter's correct residential address as part of an ongoing voter list maintenance program," she said.

Important dates for Hamilton County voters

Voter registation deadline: April 4.

Early voting period: From April 13 to April 28.

Absentee ballot request deadline: April 26.

May primary election: May 3.

 

 

(READ MORE: See who intends to run in Hamilton County's 2022 primary elections)

If voters receive a confirmation notice, they must fill out the pre-paid response card and include their updated address, if necessary.

The notices come as the commission attempts to bolster voter outreach leading up to the first election since the redistricting process that is required after a U.S. census.

In November, the Hamilton County Commission passed an 11-district map to replace the previous nine-district map. The state has yet to approve the map.

The commission in mid-March plans to mail all registered voters in the county a notice that will include details about how the voters' districts changed, their new polling place and their new precinct name, Foster said.

(READ MORE: Hamilton County commissioner proposes prohibiting county funds to pay salaries of constitutional officers' family members)

If the map is passed, the county's number of precincts would decrease from 135 to 88. The new number could be higher depending on any changes made by the state.

The number of polling places would increase from 72 to 80.

In addition to the mid-March notices, the commission also plans to post voting information on its social media and website as well as put information on buses in downtown Chattanooga.

"We're trying to get everything on every front to try and get where the voters are," Foster said.

The May primary will also be one of the most secure in the county's history, officials say.

This election cycle will be the first time the commission includes a new watermark on absentee ballots to allow the commission to ensure they are valid and soothe concerns among voters, Foster said.

The commission already conducts signature verification for absentee ballots and requires a state or federal photo identification for in-person voters.

Contact Logan Hullinger at lhullinger@timesfreepress.com or 814-319-5158. Follow him on Twitter @LoganHullinger.

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