Early voting starts next week

By Thomas Wilson
star staff

  A close presidential race and heavily contested city government races could bring a rush of civic-minded people to the polls when the early voting period begins next week.
   The early voting period for Carter County opens on Oct. 13 and extends through Oct. 28. Citizens may cast their ballots between 9 a.m. to 4 p.m. on weekdays and 9 a.m. to noon on Saturdays during that time.
   County Administrator of Elections Tracy Harris said her office had confirmed 1,763 registration applications since August with between 200 to 300 applications still to be processed. More than 31,500 county residents were registered to vote through Tuesday.
  Harris said first-time voters need to bring identification to give to polling officers when casting their ballots.
  "They have to show identification, be it a driver's license or voter identification card that includes their name, address and a signature," Harris said.
  The early voting period typically begins 20 days before an election and ends five days before an election. The state's voter registration deadline is 30 days before an election day. The deadline to register in person to vote in the Nov. 2 election was Friday. Registration applications sent by mail had to be postmarked by Oct. 3.
  The county election office has mailed over 500 absentee ballots. The deadline to request an absentee ballot by mail is Oct. 26.
  The U.S. presidential election pitting Republican President George W. Bush against Democratic challenger Sen. John Kerry will likely bring more voters to the polls than the Aug. 5 county general election, and state and federal primaries. Carter County saw an anemic voter turnout with less than 25 percent of the county's registered voters participating in the August election.
  Voter registration drives undertaken around the country by the Republican and Democratic parties have apparently upped the number of eligible voters in the coming election. State election offices around the nation have reported significant jumps in voter registration during recent weeks as the election nears.
  In addition to the federal race, the ballot includes the state general election. Rep. Jerome Cochran is running unopposed for his 4th Legislative District seat to the state House of Representatives.
  City of Elizabethton voters will choose three City Council and Board of Education members in the municipal election. County voters will also select one new County Commission member from the 4th District representing the Courthouse, East Side, and Siam voting precincts.