published Saturday, May 10th, 2014

Hamilton County voter turnout low, local parties look to August

Eddy, left, and Anita Phillips vote Tuesday at Concord Baptist Church in Chattanooga.
Eddy, left, and Anita Phillips vote Tuesday at Concord Baptist Church in Chattanooga.

BY THE NUMBERS

Voter turnout by district

District 7: 14.12 percent

District 1: 12.58 percent

District 5: 11.29 percent

District 3: 9.82 percent

District 8: 9.70 percent

District 9: 9.41 percent

District 2: 8.83 percent

District 4: 8.29 percent

District 6: 7.28 percent

Source: Hamilton County Election Commission

Election Commission Chief Deputy Charlotte Mullis-Morgan had one thing to say about last week's Hamilton County primary voter turnout.

"Isn't it just awful?" she said.

Overall, 10.9 percent of Hamilton County's 219,000 eligible voters determined 31 primary races.

"I don't know how you get people to come out and vote. Lord knows we've tried everything," Mullis-Morgan said.

Tuesday's numbers were higher than the May 2010 primary turnout. That was 8.37 percent. But turnout in the 2006 and 2002 primaries were 13.68 percent and 10.66 percent respectively.

Across the county's nine districts, though, three had turnout last week above the countywide average.

District 7 had the most active voters this go-round -- with 14.12 percent turnout -- but it also had the most active races. Of the district's 27,493 eligible voters, 3,882 cast ballots Tuesday.

In the end, Sabrena Turner took the Republican primary for the District 7 County Commission spot over candidates Perry Perkins and Phil Smartt. And Ezra Maize, a pastor, took the Democratic nod over candidate Don Brown. Turner and Maize will face off in August.

The second-highest turnout was in District 1, where challenger Randy Fairbanks ousted longtime commissioner Fred Skillern in a 52-vote upset.

There, 12.58 percent -- or 2,649 of the district's 21,056 voters -- turned out to cast ballots. All but nine voted Republican.

Third place for voter turnout was District 5, where 11.29 percent of the 24,536 voters hit the polls. Commissioner Greg Beck defended his Democratic nomination against challenger Isiah Hester.

Hamilton County Democratic Party Chairman Terry Lee said the low turnout is a wake-up call.

"The biggest thing to take away from this is that for the August election, we've got to give people a reason to turn out. We have to differentiate our candidates against [Republicans]," Lee said. "Unfortunately the people who [must] decide these races are sleeping on the couch instead of going to the voting booth."

Local Republican Party Chairman Tony Sanders said despite there being few Democrats on contested ballots, the local GOP must not be lax.

"We are going to do a lot of stuff to mobilize the base. We are going to bring a lot of our candidates in to do some events to get people out to the polls," Sanders said.

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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