Long lines form at early voting sites

Robert Houk • Oct 18, 2018 at 12:00 AM

Johnson City Vice Mayor Jenny Brock has worked the polls many times during her political career, but she has never had a day quite like Wednesday’s start to early voting.

“This is a new style of campaigning,” Brock, who is seeking re-election to the City Commission on the Nov. 6 ballot, said as she helped direct traffic at the Princeton Art Center’s early voting site. “I’m telling people that they can vote for me as city commissioner or as a parking lot attendant.”

John Hunter, a member of the city’s Board of Education, who is also seeking one of two seats on the City Commission, was also helping would-be voters find a place to park in the crowded lot. Like Brock, Hunter held a campaign sign in one hand as he used the other to gesture to drivers.

“It’s been a hectic day,” Hunter said. “One positive thing is that it lets us talk to people both coming and going.”

Record high numbers were set across the state for the first day of early voting. Carter County recorded 720 early votes, while Unicoi County election officials said 450 residents voted early Wednesday.

Early voting ends Nov. 1.

Washington County Administrator of Elections Maybell Stewart said 1,799 residents had marked ballots Wednesday at the county’s three early voting sites.

“People are really anxious to vote,” Stewart said. “That’s why we are seeing the lines. We think that’s a good thing.”

The Nov. 6 ballot has races for Tennessee governor, U.S. Senate and for other state and local offices.

Washington County voters faced at least a 30-minute wait to vote early at the Princeton Arts Center for most of the day. The same was true for voters at the Washington County Courthouse in Jonesborough, which saw a long line at several peak times in the day.

Both Princeton and the courthouse sites have five electronic voting machines, while four are in use at the Gray Commons site. Officials there said a steady line of voters had filed through the Johnson City facility most of the day. The Gray site had already voted 300 people by 12:30 p.m.

Stewart said the limited parking situation at the Princeton Arts Center is unfortunate, and the county will seek a different early voting site for Johnson City in the next election. In the meantime, Stewart suggested voters check out the Gray Commons site, which has more parking.

All early voting sites in Washington County are open from 9 a.m. until 5 p.m., Monday through Friday, and 9.a.m. to noon on Saturdays.

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