published Thursday, July 24th, 2014

Vote early, officials say: State officials warn lengthy ballots could cause waits at the polls

AVOID THE LINES

Early voting continues through Aug. 2 at the following locations:

• Brainerd Road Rec Center 1010 North Moore Road

Monday- Saturday, 10 a.m.-7 p.m.

• Eastwood Church 4300 Ooltewah-Ringgold Road

Monday-Saturday, 10 a.m.-7 p.m.

• Election Commission 700 River Terminal Road

Monday-Friday 8 a.m.-7 p.m., Saturday 9 a.m.– 7 p.m.

• Northgate Mall (Outside, between Applebee’s and former Piccadilly Cafeteria)

Monday-Saturday, 10 a.m.-7 p.m.

Voters must have acceptable Tennessee or federal photo ID.

EARLY BALLOTS SO FAR

Bledsoe: 474

Bradley: 3,011

Grundy: 722 (through Tuesday)

Hamilton: 7,428

Marion: 729

McMinn: 1,665

Meigs: 642

Monroe: 2,377

Polk: 900 (through Tuesday)

Rhea: 1,754

Sequatchie: 740

Source: Secretary of State’s Office

NASHVILLE — State elections officials are urging people to vote early in the Aug. 7 election, saying the lengthy ballot will generate long lines on Election Day.

An estimated 143,625 Tennesseans — 7,428 in Hamilton County — had cast early ballots by the time the polls closed Wednesday according to the state Division of Elections.

“If you know who you’re going to vote for, go ahead and get your ballot in the box,” Secretary of State Tré Hargett said during a telephone conference call with reporters.

Hargett and state Election Coordinator Mark Goins said early voting, which began Friday and goes through Aug. 2, is already up 15 percent over a somewhat similar, nonpresidential ballot in 2010.

But this year’s ballot also includes retention votes for 23 appellate judges as well as a highly publicized battle over whether to keep or reject three incumbent state Supreme Court justices.

While Republican and Democratic gubernatorial primaries are snoozers, there is a lively U.S. Senate Republican primary; hot contests in the 3rd and 4th Congressional District GOP primaries and a number of contested state House and Senate seats.

Also on the ballot are county general elections featuring mayors, sheriffs, county commissioners, clerks and judges.

Goins said some counties have heaps of local candidates — some 6,000 people have their names on ballots somewhere in Tennessee.

Officials say the average ballot year this takes between five and eight minutes to complete.

Four years ago, 47 percent of Tennesseans who voted in the August elections cast early ballots, officials said. The total turnout, including Election Day, was about 29 percent of all registered voters.

On Election Day, Aug. 7, polls generally are open from 8 a.m. to 8 p.m. in Eastern Time Zone counties like Hamilton. In Central Time Zone counties such as Bledsoe, Grundy, Marion and Sequatchie, polls can open at 7 a.m. and must close by 7 p.m.

Hargett said those who are in line by the cutoff time will be allowed to vote. But he warned that news organizations and the public may not find out who is elected until late at night or even early in the morning in some instances.

about Andy Sher...

Andy Sher is a Nashville-based staff writer covering Tennessee state government and politics for the Times Free Press. A Washington correspondent from 1999-2005 for the Times Free Press, Andy previously headed up state Capitol coverage for The Chattanooga Times, worked as a state Capitol reporter for The Nashville Banner and was a contributor to The Tennessee Journal, among other publications. Andy worked for 17 years at The Chattanooga Times covering police, health care, county government, ...

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