Early voting numbers running high

Photo By Kristen Luther
Hundreds of the county's registered voters have packed the second-floor hallway of the Carter County Courthouse waiting for their opportunity to participate in early voting for the Nov. 2 election.

By Thomas Wilson
star staff

   Carter County and Elizabethton citizens are turning out in droves for the early voting period to cast ballots in the city, state, and federal election of Nov. 2.
  The Carter County Election Commission office reported 2,876 citizens had cast ballots in four and one half days of early voting through the close of business Monday. County Administrator of Elections Tracy Harris said the early voting period had been running at a fever pitch since early voting started on Wednesday.
  "On Saturday in three hours we had 348 people," Harris said.
  Citizens lined 10 to 15 people deep lined the second floor of the Carter County Courthouse outside the Election Commission office for their chance to vote on Monday. Harris said 662 people had come through the voting area on Monday shortly after the period ended at 4 p.m.
  The commission processed 537 voters on Wednesday, and over 600 on Thursday and Friday according to early voting numbers. Over 31,500 county residents are registered to vote in the November election.
   Of 2,876 early voters, 915 Elizabethton residents had cast ballots in the city election. Easily the election with the biggest local bent, the city ballot includes three at-large seats on the Elizabethton Board of Education and City Council as well as a referendum on legalizing liquor-by-the-drink service within city limits. City Judge Lewis Merryman is also running, unopposed, for his seat on the bench.
  Only city of Elizabethton residents can vote on city offices or the liquor referendum.
  Election Commissioner Dean Perry worked the morning shift guiding prospective voters to verify their status at the commission office. He said the liquor referendum and city school board races appeared to be the biggest draw for early voters.
  "I'd say we'll go 6,000 or better in the early voting if the trend continues," Perry said. "It may be for this (liquor) thing."
  At that rate, nearly 20 percent of the county's registered voters may have hit switches before Election Day rolls around.
  Harris said the county election office had mailed over 661 absentee ballots with 452 received through Monday. The last day the Election Commission office can process an absentee ballot by mail request is Oct. 26.
  Early voting turnout is encouraging given the Aug. 5 county general election and state primary. Carter County saw an anemic voter turnout with less than 25 percent of the county's registered voters participating in the Aug. 5 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.
  Carter County Election Commission workers confirmed more than 1,700 new voter registration applications since the August election.
   "We have had a ton of first-time voters," Harris said.
   The early voting period for Carter County began Wednesday and extends through Oct. 28. Citizens may cast ballots between 9 a.m. to 4 p.m. on weekdays and 9 a.m. to noon on Saturdays during that time.
   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. County voters will also select one new County Commission member from the 4th District representing the Courthouse, East Side, and Siam voting precincts.