published Wednesday, April 16th, 2014

Early voting in Hamilton County begins today

EARLY VOTING LOCATIONS

Early Voting will be open today through May 1. Below are the locations and times for early voting polls. All locations will by closed on April 18 for Good Friday observances.

• Brainerd Rec Center, 1010 North Moore Road, 10 a.m. to 6 p.m., Monday through Saturday

• Eastwood Church, 4300 Ooltewah-Ringgold Road, 10 a.m. to 6 p.m., Monday through Saturday

• Election Commission, 700 River Terminal Road, 8 a.m. to 6 p.m., Monday through Friday and 9 a.m. to 6 p.m. on Saturday

• Northgate Mall, in location between Old Navy and Belk, 10 a.m. to 6 p.m., Monday through Saturday

The local primary election is about three weeks away, but registered voters who already have their picks can fill out their ballots starting today.

Early voting for the May 6 primary begins at four polling locations in Hamilton County, and Election Administrator Kerry Steelman says the staff has been working nonstop to make early voting as convenient as possible.

"Early voting is a great benefit to the community because it ensures everyone is afforded ample opportunity to have their voices heard. Voters can select the date and time that best suits their schedule, as well as the location that is most convenient," Steelman said.

Early voting will run through May 1. Residents can cast primary ballots at the election commission's headquarters or three other locations.

There are 31 partisan races up for grabs, and 21 of those will be settled by the primary. There are 15 unopposed races. Of those, 14 feature incumbents who will keep their office.

Democratic Party Chairman Terry Lee said he expects his biggest races to be the District 4 and 5 Hamilton County Commission races. The local party has been working hard to ramp up voter participation.

The party has been running phone banks for candidates, organizing community meetings and doing everything possible to reach voters, he said.

"We are also looking to utilize a lot more social media, showing candidates how to use things like Facebook and Twitter," Lee said.

Local Republican Party Chairman Tony Sanders said there are so many Republicans involved in the primary, the party has tried to stay in the background and let the candidates motivate voters. The party wants to avoid giving any candidate preference, he said.

However, the party is still helping all of its candidates with communicating with voters.

"One of the things the party does is it provides communications tools to the candidates, so we have been sending out quite a bit of information on their behalf," Sanders said.

The big GOP vote push will be in August, he said.

Still, this is a big year for local elections, because all of the eight-year judgeships are on the ballot.

The last time Hamilton County had a primary ballot this big was 2006. At that time, there were 182,250 registered voters, and 24,931 went to the polls -- that's 13.68 percent voter turnout. There are currently 219,660 registered voters in Hamilton County.

Contact staff writer Louie Brogdon at lbrogdon@timesfreepress.com or at 423-757-6481.

about Louie Brogdon...

Louie Brogdon began reporting with the Chattanooga Times Free Press in February 2013. Before he came to the Scenic City, Louie lived on St. Simons Island, Ga. and covered crime, courts, environment and government at the Brunswick News, a 17,000-circulation daily on the Georgia coast. While there, he was awarded for investigative reporting on police discipline and other law enforcement issues by the Georgia Press Association. For the Times Free Press, Louie covers Hamilton County ...

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