published Friday, December 7th, 2012

Chattanooga considers early voting


by Cliff Hightower
A line of voters stretches around the corner of the building at the Hamilton County Election Commission during early voting in this file photo.
A line of voters stretches around the corner of the building at the Hamilton County Election Commission during early voting in this file photo.
Photo by John Rawlston.

BY THE NUMBERS

* 105,000: Registered voters in the city

* 18,773: Total of people who voted in the last city election

* 6,101: People who early voted early

Source: Hamilton County Election Commission

Some Chattanooga City Council members want to open satellite early voting sites for the March 2013 elections but the elections administrator is warning them about increased costs.

Peter Murphy, chairman of the Legal and Legislative Committee, said added cost is inconsequential.

"Three or four thousand was to do two satellites," he said.

The City Council is expected to vote next week on whether to ask the Hamilton County Election Commission to open early voting sites. Those sites have not yet been determined, but four years ago the Hamilton County Election Commission office, Northgate Mall and Brainerd Recreation Center served as early voting sites.

Charlotte Mullis-Morgan, administrator of elections, said she suggested only the Election Commission office serve as an early voting site. She said the number of voters who took advantage of early voting in 2008 did not justify the extra two locations. Staffing all three sites with at least three people each costs extra.

"It's going to cost them several thousand dollars," she said.

Overall, the election cost about $138,000, she said.

Records show one-third of those who cast ballots in the 2008 city election voted early.

That's why Council Chairwoman Pam Ladd said it's important to keep early voting satellites open.

Voting needs to be as accessible as possible, she said.

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