State Rep. Bryan Terry, MD, R-Murfreesboro, was recently re-elected to his fifth term as state representative for District 48. Representing the eastern half of Rutherford County including Murfreesboro, Lascassas, Milton, Christiana, Walter Hill and MTSU, Rep. Terry has been providing community updates including his Legislative Checkup and Terry Talks on video and through social media on SHARE Rutherford. To further improve community awareness, Rep. Terry is expanding his outreach to include Terry Talk interviews with leaders and individuals throughout Tennessee.
On the heels of the 2022 November General Election, Rep. Terry spoke with Rutherford County Administrator of Elections Alan Farley about the process and future of county elections.
Terry: I’d like to thank Administrator of Elections Alan Farley for his service to the community and willingness to participate in this Terry Talk on elections. Being at the polls on Election Day, I noticed some significant turnout and lines. I received several comments from constituents about voting here locally and what has been observed nationwide. Alan and his office have always been a great resource when I’ve had to reach out on behalf of constituents. With the elections concluding, I thought it would be perfect timing to kick off our Terry Talks with Alan.
I’d like to start off with a question about early voting. Early voting turnout for the General Election seemed fairly steady. How would you describe early turnout and how could we improve it?
Farley: Early voting for the November election went very smooth. We anticipated a higher turnout for early voting. We had limited waiting on the last couple of days of early voting but overall, it was in and out in five minutes.
Rutherford County offers more early voting hours than any other county in the state. With nine locations throughout the county, we offered a total of 1,080 available hours of early voting.
Terry: I agree. Everyone I talked to said that it seemed rather smooth. I voted on the square at the Election Commission and there wasn’t a line. Election Day seemed a bit different, though. Election Day had reports of significant lines with what seemed like heavy turnout. Was turnout greater than expected?
Farley: Turnout was higher than expected for Election Day. This election was unique in that we did not have a strong competitive statewide election race driving turnout. There wasn’t any significant spending and mail driving local legislative or congressional races.
Terry: Yeah, my ballot only had three races and four constitutional amendments.
I think that oftentimes emotion drives action, and whether it was people being upset over inflation, gas prices, or other issues, people certainly let their voices be heard. I was encouraged by the turnout on Election Day. How did having four constitutional amendments on the ballot impact flow through the voting centers?
Farley: Typically, the November General Election is our shortest and easiest ballot out of all elections. Three to five offices are on the ballot, so it only takes three to five minutes in the voting booth. With these lengthy constitutional amendments, written in legal jargon, taking up six pages of reading, many of our voters weren’t aware of these so it slowed our voting times down to 30-35 minutes on average. I am glad we only have these on the ballot every so often. People are not sure if they should vote yes or no to reflect their thoughts, so they read it multiple times before casting their vote. The wording can be confusing sometimes.
Terry: I had several folks ask me about the amendments prior to voting and even had someone come up to me after they voted. I know the Secretary of State put out some information on the amendments and you could find some info online, but it still created issues.
Farley: Our office tried to share as much of that information as possible. I spoke to various civic groups and appeared on three WGNS radio shows trying to educate as many as possible.
Terry: We legislators get questions about voter turnout and voter security quite frequently. We often say that we want it to be easy to vote and hard to cheat. Rutherford County was the first county to enact “voter convenience centers” and the county is purchasing new machines. Can you discuss what is being done to improve the voter experience while ensuring election integrity?
Farley: Ballot integrity and election integrity is first and foremost the most important thing we do. We must have confidence in our results. I tell people when asked, I vote on the same machines as everyone else. Our election commissioners do as well. Tennessee was designated as No. 1 in the country for election integrity by the Heritage Foundation. That is an area that we must pay close attention to before, during and after each election.
With the passage of legislation in 2022, we will be purchasing new voting equipment that will offer a verified voter paper audit trail that will be used in 2024. I am looking forward to adding that measure. It is needed to give our voters reassurance.
I receive calls every day from residents who have some great questions about our process. I appreciate their concern and respect them for taking the time to research and get answers. That is what makes our process the best in the world because as a free nation that can be done!
Our priority is to offer the most convenient method of voting for all Rutherford County citizens that are eligible to vote under the most secured process of voting. Many counties in our state are very envious of Rutherford County because we can provide a very convenient method under the most secured measures!
Terry: I think the paper audit trail and more machines are going to help. I appreciate y’all’s effort in that regard for our citizens. There seem to be a lot of problems with voting and counting votes nationwide while Tennessee was recently ranked No. 1 in voter integrity. How would you see or like to see the future voting experience in Rutherford County, Tennessee and nationwide?
Farley: Personally, I wished all states conducted voting like we do in Tennessee. Our process works. It concerns me to hear some groups say that low voter turnout is due to “suppressive voting laws.” My response to that is – not true! Low voter turnout in Tennessee is due to not having competitive races to motivate voters to turnout. The 2018 election cycle is a perfect example. When we have well-funded candidates competing for an office, voters respond as they did in the 2018 race for governor and the United States Senate.
As for Rutherford County, we are always looking before and after each election how we can better serve the voter/taxpayer in a more efficient manner. I sit down with my staff after each election and see where we can make improvements in service and quality while maintaining the highest level of security and integrity in the process!
Terry: Thank you for your time and your input. Is there anything else you think our community needs to know about elections or our election process?
Farley: Early Voting starts 20 days before each election and will close five days before Election Day with the exception of the Presidential Preference Primary. That early voting period closes seven days before election day. With hectic schedules, it is the best way to get your votes cast without delay and eliminates the risk of something occurring on election day and not getting to cast your vote.
Rep. Bryan Terry, MD serves as the chairman of Health Committee and serves on the Insurance Committee, as well as the Health and Insurance subcommittees. The 113th Tennessee General Assembly will convene on January 10, 2023. His office can be reached at 615-741-2180 or [email protected]