JOHNSON CITY, Tenn. (WJHL) – About 30 voters were lined up and waiting this morning at the Princeton Arts Center early voting location here. That made Mark Finucane, the officer in charge of the precinct, happy.
We were able to have those first voters go through within about 10 to 15 minutes,” Finucane said. “It’s always a welcome site, we don’t mind staying busy here. It makes the day go faster. Today’s our busiest day so far.”
Princeton is one of three early voting precincts in Washington County, Tenn., where totals were more than 20 percent ahead of the 2016 presidential primary totals. Turnout in Sullivan County was down from 2016’s primary.
The majority of the difference in Washington County so far is a result of much heavier turnout in the Democratic primary. With the final day drawing to a close, turnout had risen more than two-and-a-half times, to 2,616 people from 1,016 in 2016.
Election Administrator Maybell Stewart said she was surprised by the higher turnout. “I thought that we would be lower than we were in 2016,” Stewart said.
From his vantage point, Finucane attributed much of the difference to younger people.
“Seems like young voters are now involved and cognizant of what’s going on in the country and they want to get out and let their voices be heard,” Finucane said. “We live in a great country and you have the opportunity to vote for a person that you think is best. I think that’s highly welcome and it’s great to see young people involved and paying attention to not only local politics but the national politics.”
One of those younger voters was Casey Edwards of Johnson City. Edwards, who said he was pleased with the site’s efficiency and his short wait, pulled the lever in the Democratic primary. Just as he had in 2016, Edwards plumped for Bernie Sanders — the difference being that his candidate was a front runner so far this primary season.
Edwards said he was excited about the momentum Sanders has built so far. He also gave a hint into the possibility of an outcome — should Sanders not capture the nomination — that has some Democratic party poobahs concerned.
“I would probably support (Elizabeth) Warren if she took the nomination,” said Edwards, who did not vote for Hillary Clinton in the 2016 general election. “The others I don’t feel too strongly about-slash dislike greatly.”
On the Republican side in Washington County, turnout was comparable to 2016 — 4,881 compared to 3,975 in ’16 — despite a contested county property assessor’s race between incumbent Scott Buckingham and former state representative Dale Ford.
Sullivan County sites also had grown busier this week. Monday saw a total of 762 votes cast there, 40 percent higher than the previous top day last Friday. That number rose to 1,087 Tuesday.
“It’s busy, but it’s not line busy,” Sullivan County Election Administrator Jason Booher said Tuesday afternoon.
Booher added that early turnout, which in the end totaled 4,816, was down significantly from 2016 when there were two contested primaries and 8,359 people voted early.
Booher said including election day, 28,525 people voted in 2016’s presidential primaries. “I’m thinking we’ll probably see half of that (this year),” he said.
Totals from area counties include:
- Washington County: Republican, 4,881, Democrat, 2,616 (includes absentee)
- Sullivan County: Republican, 2,907, Democrat, 1,909.
- Greene County: Republican, 1,872, Democrat, 722 (Includes absentee).
- Hawkins County: Republican, 1,162, Democrat, 335 (through Monday).