KNOXVILLE, Tenn. (WATE) — East Knoxville is down one polling location this election season. The Knox County Election Commission announced that The Love Kitchen will not be an early voting site in 2021.
The commission says this was a decision made by representatives of The Love Kitchen, saying they needed more space to store food for their growing ministry. Now commissioners are working on finding a new location before early voting begins.
Knoxville City Council District 6 Representative Gwen McKenzie says she was disappointed to hear the news about the polling location, which is located in her district.
“I understand the decision of The Love Kitchen board expanding their ministry, but The Love Kitchen has been such a staple for early voting in the community for so long, the numbers have continuously gone up, the accessibility to people living in affordable housing community and just the city in general,” McKenzie said.
The news was a double blow for those who not only have voted here but will be on the ballot themselves this August.
“I was personally appalled that this was no longer going to be an option for voting,” said Deidra Harper. She lives and works in East Knoxville and her name will be on the ballot in August.
“I’ve voted here almost every year that I was able to vote in my community. I work right across the street from the love kitchen so I knew that it was a space that we needed. It’s right here in the center of east Knoxville so it has accessibility to a lot of people in the area that are concerned and want to put their voice in,” Harper said.
The election commission has already started looking for a new space. They are left with about 30 days to secure it. Early voting starts on August 11. Primary elections are on August 31.
“I am going to work very hard and collaboratively with the election commission to help them in any way that I can to help them find a location here in east Knoxville,” McKenzie said.
In his administrators report at the last Election Commission meeting, administrator Chris Davis said:
“First, I am sad to report that the Love Kitchen will not be able to be an early voting site in 2021 for the Election Commission. Patrick Riggins, who oversees the day-to-day operations of the Love Kitchen, shared that with us (specifically, the early voting officer, Sally Laster, and our Machine Technician Frank Schingle) last Thursday afternoon, citing specifically the growing ministry of the Love Kitchen into outlying counties and the need for more space to store food, including the entire upstairs space where voting was conducted.
To be clear and for the record, this move was initiated by Mr. Riggins and the Love Kitchen. The Election Commission has enjoyed a presence at the Love Kitchen for a decade, and the last thing I wanted to do was move from a sure thing. On behalf of the Election Commission and the voters of Knox County that have been fortunate to vote at that facility for the last ten years, I want to publicly thank the Love Kitchen and its fine team for opening its doors to us for as long as they did.”Chris Davis, Knox County Election Administrator
WATE 6 On Your Side did reach out to Mr. Riggins, but did not get a response.