SULLIVAN COUNTY, Tenn. (WJHL) – The state of Tennessee is seeing record low early voting turnout for this election, and Northeast Tennessee as a region is no exception. Election administrators in both Washington and Sullivan Counties say they expect to break records, but not the records they’d like to see.
“As of yesterday, we only have 3.2% of our voters that have shown up to our precincts to vote, and that’s out of 86,000 voters,” Dana Jones said Tuesday. Jones, the administrator of Washington County elections, said that by lunchtime on Tuesday, only 32 people had cast their votes at Freedom Hall.
As of Tuesday, Washington County ranks 87th in voter turnout out of the state’s 95 counties.
“As of yesterday we only have 3.2% of our voters that have shown up to our precincts to vote and that’s out of 86,000 voters,” Jones said. “Vote for the candidates that you want in office so that we can enjoy the freedoms so we don’t have 10% of our population, which would be 13,000 people, saying how 133,000 people live.”
In Sullivan County, voter turnout is even worse. The county ranks 94th.
“We are on track to see our lowest turnout ever for an August election, and we’re on track for a total turnout of around 6% of registered voters,“ said Jason Booher, Sullivan County Administrator of Elections. “We have 107,000 registered voters in Sullivan co. We’re expecting around 6,000-7,000 of those to actually cast a ballot in this election.”
With early voting winding down and the August 4 Election Day on the horizon, administrators say low competition may be a factor in the turnout.
“We’ve seen a really low turnout primarily, I think, because of the number of uncontested races and the fact there hasn’t been a whole lot of campaigning as far as political mailers and advertisements by the candidates that are contested,” Booher said.
However, while there are not many contested races, the low turnout of voters could mean that the ones that are contested will be decided by a small margin of votes.
“In two districts that have competition – the votes in those districts – less than 100 people have turned out to vote so far,” Jones said. “So you’ve got basically less than 100 people that are saying how 8,800 people in that district are going to live for the next four years.”
Election officials are also concerned over the fact that elections are not cheap, and they have to prepare as if all the registered voters will turn up.
“Every single election we hold that’s county-wide, it costs six figures, over a $100,000 to run it,” Booher said. “The biggest cost is labor. We have over 200 election officials that serve. It’s taxpayer money that’s going, and we have to prepare as if everybody votes.”
In both counties, the incumbent county mayors are on the ballot. While both Joe Grandy and Richard Venable are challenged by Independent candidates, that competition has not driven voters to the polls.