Early voting begins today for the Aug. 2 election. This ballot includes a general election for county positions and primaries for state and federal offices. In Washington County, voters will also decide an important sales tax referendum for schools.
Seven percent of the 9.5 percent sales tax now collected in Washington County goes to the state. Members of the city and county boards of education would like to see the local rate raised from the current 2.5 percent to the maximum 2.75 percent state law to fund local schools.
The last sales tax hike in Washington County was narrowly approved in May 1994. City and county school officials banded together then to push passage of a referendum to raise the local option sales tax from 2.25 percent to where it stands today.
The Washington County ballot also sees voters in the 7th and 8th County Commission districts filling unexpired terms. On the state primary ballot, Rep. Dale Ford, R-Jonesborough, sees a challenge for the Republican nomination in the 6th District from James (Michah) Van Huss. The winner of the primary will face Michael Clark, who is unopposed in the Democratic Primary, in the Nov. 6 general election.
Meanwhile, the federal primary ballot finds Congressman Phil Roe unchallenged for the Republican nomination. Likewise, Alan Woodruff is unopposed for the Democratic nomination. The two will face off for the 1st District seat in November.
U.S. Sen. Bob Corker faces four challengers for the GOP nomination. Seven Democrats are also vying to be their party’s nominee for the Senate in the fall.
As we’ve noted in this space before, county races are often ignored by voters. That’s a mistake because these offices represent government at its closest. These races may not be as glamorous as voting for president, but they nonetheless have a significant impact on our daily lives. The decisions made by these officeholders impact all county residents right where they live and work.
Early voting will continue through July 28. The polls will be open from 9 a.m.-5 p.m. weekdays at the Washington County Courthouse in Jonesborough, the Washington County Health Department on Princeton Road in Johnson City and at the Gray Commons building/Johnson City fire station located along Bobby Hicks Highway in Gray.
Washington County residents may also vote early at these sites on Saturdays from 9 a.m.-noon.
State officials have certainly done all they can to make the voting process as painless as possible. In 1996, Tennessee became one of the first states in the nation to offer early voting for those who don’t want to stand in long lines on election day.
If you have never voted early, this might be the time to give it a try. And remember to carry some form of approved photo identification when you go to the polls. Acceptable forms of photo ID include driver’s licenses, U.S. passports and government employee identification cards. College photo IDs will not be accepted.