By Jill Penley
The atmosphere was a little different when early voting for the upcoming state primary and county general election kicked off on July 17 as in addition to lines on the floor to assure social distancing, a bag of COVID-19 essentials was distributed to voters complete with clear, single-use, disposable gloves, an ink pen to use to sign paperwork and keep, and an “I voted” sticker.
“Our office has been working diligently to ensure a safe and secure election for voters,” said Cheri Lipford Administrator of Elections in a press release. “I encourage Johnson County voters to help us minimize the amount of time it takes to cast a ballot by voting early.”
The state primary will be held on Thursday, August 6, at all the regular polling places. During the last state primary and county general election in August 2016, Johnson County Administrator of Elections Cheri Lipford reported a total of 2,190 residents cast ballots, with 1,179 voters choosing to take part in absentee and early voting instead of waiting until Election Day.
According to Lipford, the overall voter turnout for that election was a measly 18.60 percent; however, state primary and county general election in August 2014 was just shy of 50 percent.
The local offices on the ballot include Road Superintendent to fill the unexpired term for two years until 2022, Assessor of Property, and School Board District 2, which represents Forge/Shouns, Trade, Neva, and Mountain City. Jeff Wagner, who is running unopposed, was appointed by the Johnson County Board of Commission to fill the position previously held by Darrell Reece, who passed away unexpectedly last September. Current Assessor of Property, Matthew J. Lewis, is also running unopposed.
Voters in School Board District Two will choose two representatives. Incumbents Mike Payne and Jo Ann Matheson Reece face challenges from Joan T. Arnold and Charlie Thompson. Although she missed the deadline to be included on the ballot, local Kimberly Kleine has launched a ‘write-in’ campaign.
As part of the state primary, voters will be choosing candidates to face off in November for U.S. Senate and U.S. House of Representatives in addition to Tennessee Senate and Congress. The 3rd House District will be an open seat as incumbent Timothy Hill is running to succeed Rep. Phil Roe in Congress along with 15 other candidates. Two local candidates, Scotty Campbell and Neal Kearney seek the Republican nomination to succeed Hill, while Senator Jon C. Lundberg runs unopposed to Tennessee Senate for District Four.
Early voting will be held at the Johnson County Election Commission Office, located at 158 Election Avenue in Mountain City directly behind the Johnson County Rescue Squad. Early voting is available Monday from 8 a.m. to 6 p.m., Tuesday through Friday from 8 a.m. to 5 p.m., and Saturday from 8 a.m. until noon.
While early voting is ongoing, the Election Commission Office is a legal polling place, which means the 100-foot boundary on campaign materials is in effect for the office building as well as the parking area.
Campaign materials such as signs, hats, t-shirts, buttons, or campaign literature are not allowed within 100 feet of a polling place under state law. For more information, or details about voting by mail, visit https://www.jctnvote.com/.