Through 10 days of early voting, the number of Tennesseans who cast ballots early or submitted an absentee ballot has reached 967,706, according to the Tennessee Secretary of State’s website.
This year’s total of early and absentee ballots is already 333,342 more than the 634,364 cast in Tennessee during the 2014 midterm election.
Last week, Tennessee Coordinator of Elections Mark Goins told the Tennessean that he predicted early voting for the November election could account for 55 to 60 percent of all votes.
High turnout for early voting is also occurring in Northeast Tennessee, where most counties have seen a significant turnout.
Washington County has seen five days where more than 2,000 people voted early, and in total, Administrator of Elections Maybell Stewart said 19,347 people have cast early or absentee ballots as of 3 p.m. Monday.
In 2014, just 10,499 people participated in early and absentee voting in Washington County.
“It hasn’t slowed down from the very beginning,” Stewart said. “Now, today, we might not do as many. We still have two hours to go, but we have voted 1,364 (on Monday) at all three of our early voting sites.”
Voters can still cast early ballots Tuesday, Wednesday or Thursday from 9 a.m. to 5 p.m. at one of three locations in Washington County: Washington County Courthouse, 100 E. Main St., Jonesborough; Princeton Art Center, 2516 E. Oakland Ave., Johnson City; or Gray Fire Station, 106 Gray Commons Circle, Gray.
In Carter County, election officials said 7,614 people have cast early or absentee ballots as of 3 p.m. Monday.
“It’s broke all midterm election records. That’s for sure,” Administrator of Elections Tracy Tanner-Harris sad.
Unicoi County had 3,310 early votes cast as of 3 p.m. Monday, and Sullivan County had 24,593 people vote early through Oct. 27.
As of Oct. 25, Unicoi County was ranked third in the state for having 24.03 percent of registered voters cast early ballots, while Sullivan County ranked ninth with 20.75 percent of registered voters participating in early or absentee voting.
“Voter turnout for the November 6, 2018 Election has increased significantly in comparison to recent midterm elections. In fact, current numbers indicate we may witness a record turnout for a midterm election,” an Oct. 24 post on the Sullivan County Election Commission’s Facebook page stated.
“It is important to understand that one election cannot directly be compared to another based upon a single factor. Contested races on the ballot, amount of advertising dollars being spent on campaigns, and the political climate are just a few of the factors that should be considered.”
One factor likely driving interest in the 2018 Tennessee midterms is the gubernatorial contest between Republican Bill Lee and Democrat Karl Dean and the U.S. Senate race between Republican Marsha Blackburn and Democrat Phil Bredesen.
As the Sullivan County Election Commission pointed out in its Facebook post, the 2018 midterm in Tennessee is the first since since 1994 that an incumbent is not seeking re-election for U.S. Senate or governor.
Tennessee has consistently ranked at the the bottom in voter turnout during the last five elections. In 2016, Tennessee placed 49th with 51.19 percent voter turnout, and in 2014, the state ranked 50th with a 28.5 percent turnout rate, according to Pew’s Election Performance Index.