November 7, 2018
By Jill Penley
Is it Governor Lee or Governor Dean? Senator Blackburn or Senator Bredesen? Will Johnson County follow suit with surrounding counties and allow liquor stores or alcohol sales in restaurants? At press time, votes were still being cast, but based on the number of early and absentee votes cast, it is clear local voters wanted a voice in this mid-term election.
Whether it was the referendum issues on liquor-by-the-drink and retail package stores or one of the hotly contested political races, Johnson Countians voting early and by absentee ballot is higher this year, at 3,648, than it was in 2012 voting officials say. For perspective, there were 3,162 votes cast in early and absentee in Johnson County for the August 2 County general and state primary. Friday, October 19, the third day of early voting, saw the highest number of votes cast during the period in Johnson County at 364.
The number of early voters also soared statewide. On Friday, the Secretary of State’s office announced 1,378,840 people had voted early, just 50,000 fewer than the total votes cast in the last midterm. The early voting turnout has been so high this election, Mark Goins, Tennessee’s coordinator of elections, has said elections officials have shifted to comparing numbers to the 2016 presidential election rather than the 2014 midterm.
While most states have a method for an eligible voter to cast a ballot before election day, either during the early voting period or by requesting an absentee ballot, in 13 states early voting is not available, and an excuse is required to request an absentee ballot. Reasons voters take advantage of early voting varies; however, convenience is the main response given.
“I chose to cast my vote during the early voting period,” said Byran Merritt, “because I travel 15 to 20 days a month and couldn’t guarantee to be here on Election Day.”
Others like to avoid the lines on election day. “It’s easier to get in and out,” said Kathy Wilson, “and all the people aren’t standing out there campaigning.” Liz Hot agrees. “It’s easy peasy,” she said. “There’s no line, and now I don’t have to go after a long day at work on Tuesday.”
Regardless of whether voters took advantage of early voting or cast their vote on election day, by the time this issue hits the newsstands, Tennessee will have elected a new governor, and the Blackburn/Bredesen advertisements will finally be a thing of the past, but Tennesseans definitely chose to have a voice in this election.