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Early voting off to strong start in area

Jennifer Sprouse • Oct 17, 2012 at 10:05 PM

For many on the first day of Tennessee’s early voting period, there was no debating what they were going to do — go vote.

According to area election administrators, plenty of people made their way to the early voting booths.

“We had long lines and we were glad to see that,” Maybell Stewart, Washington County’s administrator of elections, said. “It looks like we are going to have over 1,600 voters today.”

She said the crowd that came into the Gray, Johnson City and Jonesborough precincts was a mix of older and younger voters who seemed to be enjoying themselves.

“Everything was going fine and everybody seemed to be in a good mood,” Stewart said. “If anyone didn’t like waiting in line they certainly were not showing it. The atmosphere was very good.”

She said overall Washington County seemed to have a good first day of early voting and said she hopes it beats 2008’s numbers.

Jason Booher, Sullivan County administrator of elections, said that by 4 p.m. Wednesday his county had already seen 3,250 voters cast their ballots, which beats 2008’s first early voting day number of 2,483.

“We’re on pace to exceed our early voter turnout and perhaps our overall election turnout from four years ago,” he said.

Booher said the county’s first day went off without a hitch and said they even prepared for more early voters.

“We anticipated an increased turnout and prepared for that by providing additional computer terminals, voting machines and personnel,” he said.

Booher said the voters seemed in good spirits.

“Voters seemed to have a smile on their face and were excited about the opportunity to vote early, the convenience of early voting, allowing voters to have 14 days to cast their ballot, not just on election day,” Booher said.

In Carter County, Elections Administrator Tracy Harris said 629 voters turned out, which exceeded the 549 seen on the first day in 2008.

Harris said that voters were anxious to get in and vote, which could have been spurred by Tuesday night’s presidential debate.

“I just think there’s a big interest in this because the race is so close. I think more people will come out and vote,” she said. “We did almost 10,000 (voters) last early voting just coming through here, so I expect there will probably be more than that this time.”

Sarah Bailey, administrator of elections for Unicoi County, said she couldn’t have asked for a better turnout Wednesday.

“It’s been busy. People are excited to get out and cast their votes,” Bailey said. “Everything has gone very smoothly. We’re using the same voting machines that we’ve used for several elections now, so everyone’s pretty familiar with those. Things have gone really well.”

She said Wednesday’s total was around 375 voters, with some still being counted during the interview. Bailey said she thinks the debate, as well as local races, raised awareness and the importance of casting their vote.

“That, as far as we can figure, this is our highest first day number ever. In the last presidential election we did 340 on the first day, so we’re well above that and that was our previous record,” Bailey said.

Early voting will continue until Nov. 1.

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