State election law pushed to limit in August vote

Shelby County election officials say most voters will only need around ten minutes to complete the massive August ballot.  State law says taking more than ten minutes could get a voter thrown out of the polling place.

A little talked-about piece of Tennessee Election Law could play a big role in the weeks leading up to the massive Shelby County election in August.

It says "no voter who is voting without assistance may remain in a voting machine booth or occupy a voting compartment for more than five (5) minutes if other voters are waiting or more than ten (10) minutes in any event. "

"That is a serious concern, certainly it's a law and therefore we will follow it.  However, we do realize that there are variables in this election that are unprecedented in the state of Tennessee," says Election Commissioner Rich Holden.

He's talking about variables like new technology and - we should probably mention - the longest ballot in state history.

Holden says there are 142 races up for grabs in August.  The ballot will feature 342 candidates total.

The election commission says they anticipate the average time to vote will be four to twelve minutes, but that may be optimistic.

"No, they won't fly through this ballot."  Action News 5 political analyst Susan Adler Thorp says some will likely need more time.  "I think people should go to the polls and be prepared for an hour or even a two hour wait."

Holden says election commissioners - worried about the long ballot and the old law - called state officials for guidance.  Now - if you're at the machine for more than ten minutes, expect a poll worker to ask you if you need help.

He also says that this is a very loosely applied state law and that he feels pretty confident that people won't need that much time to vote.