Local early GOP primary voting heavy, outpaces state when compared to 2016

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Early voting totals through nine days compared with 2016 show a marked increase — with an open Congressional seat likely fueling turnout in addition to COVID-19 concerns.

(WJHL) – The first wide-open Congressional race since 2006 and a few contested State House primaries are driving a bigger early voting jump in Tennessee’s First Congressional District than the state as a whole.

Early votes cast across the district through Monday are nearly triple the number that were cast in the 2016 August primary. In the district’s 11 counties, 30,708 people voted through nine days of the 15-day early voting period. That number was just 11,707 in the 2016 primary.

That’s a 162 percent increase and compares to a statewide increase of 122 percent in early voting, which runs through Saturday. Election day is August 6.

Tennessee’s First District, home to a competitive primary, has seen a bigger jump in early voting than the state as a whole.

While COVID-19 and a general trend toward more early voting may be factors in the spike’s magnitude, the crowded primary filled with candidates hoping to follow Dr. Phil Roe as the First District’s representative in Washington is almost certainly playing a role.

On a more local level, four state house races feature competitive Republican primaries. Three involve challengers trying to knock off incumbents while the fourth has two people hoping to succeed Timothy Hill, who is running for the Congressional seat and chose not to simultaneously run for the state house.

The big outliers — Washington, Carter, Sevier

Perhaps unsurprisingly, the biggest percentage jump in early voting turnout has occurred in Washington County. The county is home to two state house districts, the 6th and 7th, and both feature well-funded challengers aiming to knock off incumbents.

After nine days of early voting in 2016, just 1,391 Washington County voters had cast ballots. Through Monday, also nine days in, the total was 7,080, representing a 409 percent increase compared to 2016.

That percentage jump is third among Tennessee’s 95 counties, behind only Davidson and Weakley. It could reflect strong interest in the 7th — where eight-term incumbent Matthew Hill faces local businesswoman Rebecca Alexander — and the 6th District contest pitting incumbent Micah Van Huss against Tim Hicks, a general contractor whose father once represented the district.

Washington, Carter and Sevier counties are helping push the First District’s early voting numbers higher.

Carter County, where Quillen College of Medicine professor Bob Acuff is challenging three-term incumbent John Holsclaw Jr., has seen a 280 percent increase, from 670 four years ago to 2,543 this cycle.

The third-highest increase in the First District has come in Sevier County, where there isn’t a contested state race but where COVID-19 has hit hard. The Congressional race could also be a factor in the 269 percent jump from 918 to 3,387.

Timothy Hill’s state house district covers parts of Carter, Sullivan and Johnson counties. Sullivan County’s numbers are up 142 percent from 2016, a greater jump than the state average.

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