Washington County Election Administrator Maybell Stewart said 26,069 people took advantage of the early voting period and mailed in absentee ballots, an increase of nearly 150 percent from the last midterm election in 2014, when 10,499 people voted early.
The high volume surprised the Election Commission and caused parking problems at the Princeton Arts Center, one of the county’s three early voting locations.
“Princeton doesn’t have much parking,” Stewart said Thursday. “(The Election Commission) is definitely going to be looking for something different for the 2020 election. We’ll need more parking and more people working.”
When early voting started strong two weeks ago, Stewart said she and the election commissioners expected the numbers to taper off. But they didn’t.
One voting machine and a poll worker were added at the Jonesborough Courthouse polling place to help accommodate the volume, and a computer and an operator were added at Princeton.
In Unicoi County, Election Administrator Sarah Bailey said the 4,047 early and absentee voters was leaps ahead of 2014, but fewer than the 4,800 early votes for 2016’s presidential election.
In Carter, 9,722 people have voted so far, more than double the 4,252 votes in 2014. 717 voted at the county’s election commission office, and workers received 21 absentee ballots Thursday.
More than 1.2 million people cast early and absentee ballots this year in Tennessee, crushing records for early midterm voting in counties across the state.
What advantages, if any, high early voting turnout will give to the candidates is unclear. Early voters tend to be members of the older demographics, which generally lean toward the conservative end of the political spectrum, but without knowing Election Day’s turnout numbers, it’s too soon to tell whether the higher numbers of early voters were an anomaly, or whether they were part of a surge in overall turnout.
Election Day is Tuesday, Nov. 6. Polls open at 8 a.m. and close at 8 p.m. The precinct location where you can vote is printed on your voter registration card.
Press writers Sue Guinn Legg and John Thompson contributed to this report.