Tennessee Resources for Voters with Disabilities

What are my rights as a voter with a disability in Tennessee?

In Tennessee, you have the right to the following as protected by federal law. Election staff must respect these rights:

  • Accessible voter registration
  • Accessible polling places
  • Policies and procedures that do not discriminate against you based on your disability
  • Accessible, available, and operational voting systems, features
  • Your service animal to accompany you inside the polling place
  • The right to vote privately and independently or with assistance, if needed
  • Assistance from a person of choice, who can be a friend, family member, or poll worker (but not your boss, union agent, or a candidate unless this person is your family member)
  • Election Staff trained to understand the rights above

In Tennessee, you also have the right to:  

  • Vote without proving your IQ or ability to read or write
  • Vote even if you have a conservator unless a court order has withdrawn this right
  • Ask for help voting without having to explain why you need help
  • Ask for the accessible voting machine that should be at each election site
Who can register to vote?

To register in Tennessee, you must be

  • A citizen of the United States of America
  • At least 18 on or before Election Day 
  • A resident of Tennessee
  • If you are a student, unhoused, a survivor of intimate partner violence with related concerns, or living with a mental or physical impairment, you may still register and vote

In Tennessee, you may not register or vote if:

What are my rights when registering to vote?

Federal law requires assistance in registering to vote from offices that provide public assistance or state-funded programs serving people with disabilities. Responsibilities include:

  • Providing voter registration forms
  • Assisting voters in completing the forms
  • Transmitting completed forms to the appropriate election official
  • All aspects of voter registration must be accessible
What are the different ways to vote in Tennessee?
  • Early Voting
  • In person on Election Day
  • Absentee by Mail
  • While abroad as a citizen or military through an absentee ballot request
    • Provisional ballot at a polling place
What are the ways to request an Absentee Ballot in Tennessee?

You may vote absentee with a valid excuse for one election, or permanently if you will be medically unable to vote in person. To vote absentee, you must apply through your county election commission office.

  • Absentee with excuse for one election -You must apply for each election and meet one of the following criteria to be approved: 
    • The voter will be outside the county of registration during the early voting period and all day on Election Day
    • The voter or the voter’s spouse is enrolled as a full-time student in an accredited college or university outside the county of registration
    • The voter’s licensed physician has filed a statement with the county election commission stating that, in the physician's judgment, the voter is medically unable to vote in person. The statement must be filed not less than seven (7) days before the election and signed under the penalty of perjury
    • The voter resides in a licensed facility providing relatively permanent domiciliary care, other than a penal institution, outside the voter's county of residence
    • The voter will be unable to vote in person due to service as a juror for a federal or state court
    • The voter is sixty (60) years of age or older
    • The voter has a physical disability and an inaccessible polling place
    • The voter is hospitalized, ill, or physically disabled and because of such condition, cannot vote in person
    • The voter is a candidate for office in the election
    • The voter serves as an Election Day official or as a member or employee of the election commission
    • The voter’s observance of a religious holiday prevents him or her from voting in person during the early voting period and on Election Day
    • The voter or the voter’s spouse possesses a valid commercial drivers license (CDL) or the voter possesses a valid Transportation Worker Identification Credential (TWIC) card and certifies that he or she will be working outside the state or county of registration during the open hours of early voting and Election Day, and has no specific out-of-county or out-of-state address to which mail may be sent or received during such time
    • The voter is a member of the military or is an overseas citizen
       
  • Permanent Disability Absentee - If your licensed doctor signs a statement that says you are medically unable to vote in person, you will be able to receive an application for a mail-in absentee ballot for each election. The physician’s statement has to be filed not less than 7 days before an election. 
How is the Tennessee mail-in or absentee ballot process made accessible for voters with print disabilities?

You may apply for the accessible ballot if you are unable to read or mark a paper absentee ballot on your own. If you experience blindness, low vision that can’t be corrected with prescription eyeglasses/contact lenses, or some physical disabilities that interfere with your ability to read, write or use print materials (such as paralysis), you are eligible. 

You may have assistance completing the application. 

Your ballot can be delivered by mail, email or fax.

What accommodations are available for voters with disabilities at polling locations in Tennessee?

Federal law requires polling places to meet minimum compliance standards for individuals with special needs. 

Polling locations will have an accessible voting machine which will allow you to use certain plug-ins like sip-and-puff devices. These machines are designed to help you vote privately and independently.

There may be accessible parking spaces, ramps, and/or lights to illuminate pathways into and out of the polling place.

What are the rules of assistance for disabled voters in Tennessee?
  • You may request assistance from a poll worker or receive assistance from a person of your choice with the following exceptions:  
    • your employer, an agent of your employer
    • an officer or agent of your union
    • a candidate on the ballot
       
  • A poll worker cannot force you to accept assistance.
How can I prepare to use accessible voting equipment in Tennessee prior to Election Day?

This Tennessee Voting Coalition video helps explain how to navigate voting with a disability in Tennessee.

You can also contact your local election official to ask to access a sample ballot or to preview/practice using accessible voting equipment.

Who do I contact if I have problems when voting in Tennessee?
  • To file a formal complaint, file this official form with your local election office.
    • You will need to sign and swear by the complaint. You will also need to get the complaint notarized.
    • Your complaint will be resolved within 90 days. If it is not resolved by then, and you do not agree to an extension, your claim will be resolved with alternative dispute resolution which will take no longer than 60 days.
    • You can request a hearing.
    • The Coordinator of Elections will investigate your complaint and will issue a decision. If they find that there was a violation, the Coordinator of Elections will determine a remedy.
       
  • You can contact Tennessee Disability Coalition at 1-800-342-1660, and they will be able to assist you with voting issues that you encounter.
     
  • You can also fill out a Violation of Civil Rights Complaint Form and submit it to the US Department of Justice by one of the following methods:
    • Online, through the form’s submission process - this is the fastest method.
    • By fax at (202) 616-9881. You MUST include “ATTN: Civil Rights and Civil Liberties Complaints" at the top of your fax submission for it to be processed correctly.
    • By mailing your form to: 

                             U.S. Department of Justice
                             Office of the Inspector General
                              Investigations Division
                              ATTN: Civil Rights & Civil Liberties Complaints
                             950 Pennsylvania Ave., NW
                             Washington, DC 20530