published Thursday, April 24th, 2014

Hamilton County election officials urge residents to vote early

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.
Election Statistics
Election Statistics
Early Voting Totals
Early Voting Totals

With a week left for early voting in the May 6 Hamilton County primary elections, about 1 percent of registered voters have cast ballots.

Hamilton County Election Commission figures show by Tuesday, 2,655 of the county’s 219,667 registered voters have gone to one of four early voting locations.

Early voting, which started April 16, wraps up on May 1.

That could make for a very busy election day — or wildly low overall voter turnout.

Election Administrator Kerry Steelman said Wednesday if numbers stay constant through the end of early voting, 2014 will exceed the 2 percent May early voter turnout from 2010, the last countywide election for four-year posts. But it may not hit the 3 percent early voter turnout of May 2006 — the last time all the county judges were up for new eight-year terms.

Steelman said he expects numbers to stay constant, but he hopes more residents visit the polls.

“We are expecting, again, for the numbers to remain relatively consistent from past years, but it would be great if we could get more people out to vote early,” Steelman said.

Local party officials say they hope voters get more energized overall.

Republican Party Chairman Tony Sanders said 2 percent early voter turnout is not enough. Further, the total voter turnout figures for 2006 and 2010 were 13 percent and 8 percent, respectively.

“I think we are seeing what a lot of people in the country are seeing. That’s voter apathy. I don’t know how we fix that,” Sanders said. “We can’t have [13] percent of the population determining elections countywide.”

Republicans outnumber Democrat voters more than 2-to-1 in early voting — with 1,950 GOP ballots having been filed by Tuesday and 705 Democrat ballots cast. That’s something Sanders expected.

He said Republicans simply have more contests on the May ballot than Democrats. But that doesn’t reflect his hopes for August.

“It in no way gives me a false sense of security for the general election. We are still going to work to get people out to vote for the general in August,” Sanders said.

Local Democrat Chairman Terry Lee says that’s good. The local left plans to put the majority of its strength into the August election.

“Our primary focus from the beginning is to get the vote out in August,” he said.

The local Democrats are just trying to educate people, and let them know that their vote is important, he said.

Contact staff writer Louie Brogdon at lbrogdon@timesfreepress.com.

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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