More and more people are exercising their constitutional right to determine who will represent them at the local level by voting far ahead of the designated, or “official” election day.
Early voting for Johnson City’s April 23 Municipal Election begins soon after first light Wednesday. And if the trend continues, nearly half of all votes cast will come between April 3-18, the roughly two-week span in which voters have to cast their ballots early.
The Washington County Election Commission’s three early voting sites will be open from 9 a.m. - 5 p.m. Monday-Friday and 9 a.m.- noon Saturdays. The sites will be closed on Sundays.
Most candidates have openly acknowledged they expect another low turnout this year and that who gets in and who’s left out could be decided by a few votes. There also is no single compelling issue this time around for which sides can be taken, meaning candidates will have to work that much harder hard to flesh out support.
“I really don’t know how many we’ll have for early voting, but we’d like to have a big turnout,” said Administrator of Elections Maybell Stewart. “You can put out all the (campaign) signs you want. That doesn’t really tell you how many people will go to the polls.”
Stewart said there are 38,253 registered voters for this year election, though that number includes a number of voters that have been declared “inactive.”
“The total count includes inactive voters, but they still can vote by filling out a ‘fail safe’ form before the election officially concludes,” she said. “Inactive voters are those people who have not voted in the last two consecutive general elections. They also become inactive when correspondence to them is returned ‘undeliverable.’”
Stewart said she did not know the number of currently inactive voters included in this years count.
There were 37,409 registered voters in Johnson City’s 2011 municipal contest, but only 4,510 votes were cast, a roughly 12-percent turnout. By the way, 1,815 votes were cast in early voting. That’s more than 40 percent of all votes.
Controversy over construction of the new Memorial Park Community Center and whether there would be a stand-alone center for seniors likely pushed a few more people to the polls that year.
The 2009 contest included a pool of 37,431 registered voters; 3,335 turned out, or just under 9 percent. More than 44 percent of all votes were cast early that year (1,481).
While the total number of registered voters in the 2007 municipal election was not immediately available, 8,422 total votes were recorded, or about 25 percent of all registered voters that year. Even that was a relatively low turnout compared to previous elections.
The county’s Election Commission communicates with city officials to establish an estimate for budget and planning purposes. And this year, the city has budgeted $75,000, according to Lora Grogg, the city’s budget manager.
For the past 8 years, which includes four elections, the averaged total cost has been $58,300 per election. The 2011 election ran exactly $69,240. This expense, which is incurred every other year, is paid for with money from the city’s general fund.
Registered voters within the city’s jurisdiction, which includes parts of Sullivan and Carter counties, will elect two City Commissioners and four Board of Education members to 4-year terms. One board member also will be elected to fill an unexpired 2-year term.
Candidates include Jane Myron, city commissioner and former mayor; Jenny Brock, former Johnson City Board of Education member; David Tomita, Washington County commissioner; Frank Bolus, former Washington County Commissioner; William “Bud” Hill, who ran unsuccessfully for a City Commission seat in 2011; Bart Mikitowicz, a project coordinator for Johnson City’s Glass & Concrete Contracting; and Vance Cheek Jr., former city commissioner and mayor.
Voters also will elect a total of five Board of Education members; four will be elected to 4-year terms and one person will be elected to fill Brock’s 2-year unexpired term.
Candidates for the four seats include Incumbents Chairwoman Kathy Hall, Vice Chairman Richard Manahan and Tom Hager. Newcomers John Hunter, Kenneth “Herb” Greenlee, Jonathan Kinnick and Mahmood (Michael) Sabri also are vying for the four-year terms on the seven-member board.
Sheila Cox, who serves as the board’s secretary, will be vacating her four-year seat and seek the unexpired two-year term. James Povlich also is running for that seat.
The Washington County Election Commission will post the unofficial results on its website, but early voting and absentee results will not be tabulated until after 8 p.m. on April 23. Election commissioners will post them as soon as possible after that time.