For all the spectacle and speechifying, for all the high-sounding rhetoric and all the low comedy of the presidential campaigns, Nov. 8 could be a relatively calm day at Smith County polling places.
That's because for many if not most voters, their ballots have already been cast, said Smith County Elections Administrator Karen Nelson.
"I've pulled the numbers and looked at the trends, and I believe the majority of people in Smith County have voted early," she said Monday as her elections clerks distributed supplies and readied for Tuesday's big event. "In 2012, we had a little over 50,000 people who voted early, and only about 25,000 who voted on Election Day. So it's not the one-day event it used to be; (Tuesday) could be slower than we expect. It's hard to say, but that's certainly the trend."
About 58,000 Smith County residents voted early.
The county's more than 300 electronic voting machines have now been distributed to 34 voting locations. Polls will open promptly at 7 a.m. Tuesday, and close at 7 p.m. (people standing in line at 7 p.m. will still be able to vote). Because Smith County participates in the countywide voting system, voters can cast their ballots at any location.
"We just have some last-minute chats with judges and making sure everyone has what they need," Ms. Nelson said. "We have eight phone lines dedicated tomorrow for the public to call and ask any questions they might have - whether they're registered, where they can vote, for example. We're ready."
Ms. Nelson's office also is ensuring all poll workers are fully briefed on the new voter ID rules in effect this election.
In addition to the seven approved forms of photo ID listed in the statute, an agreement between the state and the U.S. Department of Justice has added some other forms of identification.
Voters without an approved photo ID can still vote, as long as they sign a declaration of reasonable impediment, which outlines the reasons why a voter was unable to get the right form of identification - a lack of transportation, for example, or health reasons.
Voters who sign that declaration will still need to bring something with their name and address on it - a bank statement, for example, or a utility bill.
Ms. Nelson said fewer than 100 such declarations were signed during early voting.
"We had people who used out-of-state driver's licenses, some used bank statements, some used their voter registration cards alone, because they didn't have a photo ID," Ms. Nelson said. "But it wasn't many; I would say less than 100. We had a phone call from an elderly gentleman, for example, who said his wife didn't drive anymore and he asked if her expired driver's license would be enough. Because it wasn't expired for longer than four years, we said yes, it would work fine."