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2018 midterm turnout rate in Tennessee highest since 1994

Zach Vance, Sue Legg & John Thompson • Nov 7, 2018 at 10:44 PM

Voter turnout in the Nov. 6 election in Tennessee was higher than any other midterm election in the past 24 years.

More than half of registered voters in Tennessee, 55.90 percent, cast ballots in the statewide U.S. Senate and gubernatorial races, the highest rate for a midterm election since 1994 when Republican Bill Frist defeated Democratic incumbent Jim Sasser for the U.S. Senate.

That same year, 1994, was also the earliest year the Tennessee Secretary of State has voter turnout data readily available.

In total, 2.238 million of Tennessee’s 4 million registered voters showed up on Election Day, participated in early voting or cast an absentee ballot, according to unofficial vote tallies in the gubernatorial race and Tennessee Secretary of State voter registration data. That total is 57 percent higher than the total number of votes cast in the last midterm election in 2014.

While some votes are still being counted across the United States, an estimated 113 million Americans cast participated in the 2018 midterms, marking the first midterm in history to exceed 100 million votes, according to CBS News. The nationwide turnout rate is projected to be around 49 percent, surpassing 2014’s 36.4 percent and 2010’s 41 percent.

Washington County

In Washington County, the voter turnout rate was higher than the state and nation, as 58.24 percent — or 45,489 of 77,864 registered voters — cast ballots in the 2018 midterm. Compared to 2018, Washington County did report higher turnout rates in 2002 with 60.52 percent and 1994 with 59.82 percent.

“I don’t remember a midterm election like this,” Washington County Administrator of Elections Maybell Stewart said.

Considering 26,069 Washington County citizens cast early ballots, Stewart said the turnout on Election Day exceeded her expectations.

“I really didn’t expect us to have as many on Election Day as we did, but it was a nice surprise. I’m glad that people came out to vote. I wish we could get more than 58 percent,” she said.

Stewart said the biggest issue her office faced this election was parking insufficiencies at the Johnson City early voting site located at Princeton Arts Center on Oakland Avenue.

“Still, things went well and no one was turned away. We didn’t really have any problems other than the parking. We just have long lines when a lot of people come out to vote early,” Stewart said.

When asked if her office would consider moving the Princeton early voting site, Stewart responded, “absolutely.”

“Yes, we have talked about that, and we are going to be looking for something different for the Johnson City precinct,” Stewart said.

Unicoi County

In Unicoi County, 6,365 of the county’s 10,631 registered voters cast votes in the election, or just under 60 percent.

Unicoi County Election Administrator Sarah Bailey said, “It was a really good election. Unicoi County voters had an outstanding turnout during early voting and they showed up again on election day.

“Our workers were efficient and professional and out of 95 counties, Unicoi was third in getting our results turned in.”

Carter County

Tracy Harris, administrator of elections for Carter County said Tuesday’s voter turnout was record-breaking for Carter County.

According to the election summary report, a total of 18,862 Carter Countians voted in the 2018 midterm election. That represents a voter turnout of 55.44 percent of the county’s 34,025 registered voters.

“That is definitely a record,” Harris said. She compared the 2018 totals with the last two midterm voter turnouts for Carter County.

Harris said 14,155 voters turned out in 2010, for a 40 percent voter turnout. The 2014 results were especially bad. Gov. Bill Haslam and Sen Lamar Alexander faced little opposition in their bids for reelection. The result was only 11,393 votes cast. for a dismal turnout rate of 36 percent.

 

Turnout Rates Among Registered Voters
Years Washington County Carter County Unicoi County Tennessee
2018 58.24% 55.44% 59.87% 55.90%*
2016 63.73% 63.47% 65.49% 61.92%
2014 37.39% 34.99% 36.17% 35.97%
2012 63.29% 59.90% 61.94% 61.86%
2010 39.69% 40.88% 39.26% 41.32%
2008 74.67% 63.70% 64.29% 66.34%
2006 53.97% 50.71% 51.65% 49.97%
2004 70.12% 70.77% 65.36% 66.32%
2002 60.52% 52.35% 43.79% 50.40%
2000 63.71% 61.48% 56.53% 63.03%
1998 33.63% 30.74% 30.52% 32.53%
1996 68.12% 61.63% 57.27% 62.77%
1994 59.82% 56.59% 46.48% 56.62%
*The 2018 Tennessee turnout rate is based on the unofficial total of gubernatorial ballots and the total number of registered voters in Tennessee. 

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