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Voting early? Today’s your final chance

Rex Barber • Nov 1, 2012 at 9:01 AM

A record number of voters may cast ballots during the early voting period for this election in some Northeast Tennessee counties, while others are experiencing steady turnout.

Early voting for Tuesday’s election ends today (Thursday, Nov. 1).

Excluding absentee ballots, as of Wednesday morning 20,566 Washington County voters had cast ballots, according to Maybell Stewart, Washington County administrator of elections.

“It has been a strong turnout,” Stewart said. “We have voted almost 22,000 early and absentee voters. So I think we’re going to surpass what we did in 2008.”

In 2008, early voting and absentee ballots numbered almost 26,000, Stewart said.

The number of registered voters in Washington County has increased since the 2004 election. In that election 64,716 voters were registered. In 2008 there were 70,005 registered voters. There are 76,341 voters registered for this election.

Absentee votes will be coming in through Election Day which is Tuesday.

Early voting began in Tennessee Oct. 17, and by the middle of the early voting period more than 600,000 Tennesseans had voted. More than 1.2 million voters in Tennessee have so far cast their ballots.

Voters were steadily streaming to the polls at the Washington County Courthouse in Jonesborough Wednesday morning. Ballots can also be cast early at 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 from 9 a.m. to 6 p.m. today.

“Everything’s gone well considering that we have had so many people to deal with, you know,” Stewart said. “But, yes, we did expect a big turnout.”

Photo identification from a state or the federal government must be shown to vote this year. Acceptable forms of photo ID include driver’s licenses, U.S. passports and government employee identification cards. College photo IDs, however, are not accepted.

“We have had one provisional ballot with the photo ID, and he brought his ID back, so we’ve not had a problem with that,” Stewart said. “We had more provisional ballots with people who think they are registered and we’re having to check on that.”

The United States Attorney’s office in Knoxville issued a statement Wednesday informing voters that Assistant U.S. Attorney Perry H. Piper will lead efforts of that office to ensure fraud and discrimination at the polls is deterred.

He can be reached by the public at 385-1332.

In addition, the FBI will have special agents available in each field office and resident agency throughout the country to receive allegations of election fraud and other election abuses on Election Day. The local FBI field office can be reached by the public at 865-544-0751.

Complaints about ballot access problems or discrimination can be made directly to the Civil Rights Division’s Voting Section in Washington, D.C. at 1-800-253-3931 or (202) 307-2767.

As far as Election Day is concerned, Stewart said her office will be getting poll books and election supplies ready.

“There’s a lot” to do, she said. “We’ll have three days to get ready after early voting.”

The state is offering a program to make your vote in honor of a military veteran. Stewart said the state will send you a button indicating the vote was cast in honor of a veteran. To name a veteran in honor of your vote go to http://tnsos.net/Elections/honor_vote/form.php .

The list of names will be published online.

Unicoi County Administrator of Elections Sarah Bailey said early voting in Unicoi County so far has gone “very well” and she anticipates that the county’s record for early voting, set in the 2008 presidential election, will be broken.

“It’s been a little slower yesterday and today, I think because of the weather,” Bailey said Wednesday. “Up until then, we had been well ahead of our record for early voting, which is the 2008 election.”

As of late Wednesday morning, around 3,600 had taken advantage of early voting. A little more than 4,000 did so in the 2008 election, Bailey said.

Tracy Harris, administrator of elections for Carter County said the early voting totals as of midday on Wednesday was 7,745. Combined with the absentee votes, she said 8,372 Carter County voters have already cast ballots.

“There has been a good turnout for early voting, but it doesn’t look like we are going to break the record,” Harris said. The record for early voting in Carter County was during the 2008 presidential election, when there were 10,190 votes cast.

It was the same story in Johnson County, where 3,450 votes have been cast by Wednesday afternoon. The record for Johnson County is 4,200.

Staff writers Brad Hicks and John Thompson contributed to this report.

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