early voting

Early voting down 8% compared with 2018 primary

Early voting was down 8% compared with Tennessee’s 2018 primary election featuring a heated governor’s race and another open U.S. Senate seat.

Republican voting was down 11%, while Democratic turnout was up 2%. GOP voters still showed up in far greater numbers than Democrats, 354,600 to 215,790.

Only 21 counties saw increases in Republican early voting, led by a 63% growth in Washington County in the heart of the 1st Congressional District, where 16 Republicans are vying to succeed retiring U.S. Rep. Phil Roe (R-Johnson City). Other counties in the district posing GOP gains included Unicoi (21%), Sullivan (14%), Sevier (11%), and Grainger (8%). Turnout decreased in the district’s remaining counties: Jefferson (-9%), Hamblen (-13%), Greene (-21%), Johnson (-23%), Hancock (-28%), and Cocke (-30%).

Democratic turnout saw its biggest boost in Davidson County, where early voting was up 53% compared with two years ago. Knox County also saw a Democratic gain of 29%, while GOP turnout dropped 10%. In Hamilton County, Democrats saw a 24% increase but Republican turnout also grew 19%.

In Shelby County, which usually accounts for the state’s largest turnout for both parties, Democratic early voting was down 4%, while GOP balloting cratered by 25%.

The full early voting list by county compared with the 2018 primary follows below.

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GOP early voting lags behind 2018, while Nashville surge boosts Democrats’ totals

(Graphic credit: Don Johnson)

Republican turnout has been down 10% compared with the first 13 days of early voting in 2018, while Democratic turnout has been up 3%. Overall turnout has been down 7%.

(This post has been updated to reflect turnout figures for the first 13 of 14 days of early voting.)

Early voting for the Aug. 6 primary runs through Saturday.

The nominations for the open U.S. Senate race in 2018 were settled by the time the primary rolled around, but that year featured a rough-and-tumble primary for the Republican gubernatorial nomination. This year’s campaign season has been dominated by a bitter GOP contest for yet another U.S. Senate vacancy between former Ambassador Bill Hagerty and Vanderbilt surgeon Manny Sethi.

Despite the comparative lag, Republicans have still turned out in far higher numbers than Democrats across the state, 330,580 to 194,368.

The biggest increase in GOP early voting has been a 64% jump in Washington County, which is in the heart of the 16-way 1st District primary to succeed retiring U.S. Rep. Phil Roe (R-Johnson City). It’s also home to heated primary challenges of state Reps. Matthew Hill and Micah Van Huss (both R-Jonesborough). GOP voting has been down in 72 of 95 counties.

The biggest increase in early voting among Democrats has occurred in Nashville, where turnout has been  61% higher than it was through the same period two years ago. This year’s primary features Keeda Haynes’ insurgent campaign against longtime U.S. Rep. Jim Cooper (D-Nashville) and a spirited contest for the Democratic nomination to challenge state Sen. Steve Dickerson (R-Nashville).

See your county’s turnout compared with the first 13 of 14 days of early voting in 2018 below.

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Absentee voting well ahead of 2016 primary, nearing level of last presidential election

Secretary of State Tre Hargett speaks with Rep. Curtis Johnson (R-Clarksville) before Gov. Bill Haslam’s final State of the State address on Jan. 29, 2018 in Nashville. (Photo credit: Erik Schelzig, Tennessee Journal)

Requests for absentee ballots are well ahead of the number cast in the August 2016 primary and are already coming close to matching the levels of that year’s November presidential election, according to data gathered by The Tennessean‘s Joel Ebert and Carmel Kookogey.

The Secretary of State’s office said it doesn’t keep track of absentee ballot requests, referring the newspaper to local election commissions. The newspaper contacted officials in all 95 counties. Eighty provided information on how many mail-in ballots had been requested as of last week, nine refused to release data, and six did not respond.

A judge last month ordered the state to allow anyone who fears infection by the coronavirus to cast absentee ballots. The state is appealing that ruling, but it’s unlikely the Supreme Court will decide the issue before the Aug. 6 primary.

About 57,000 absentee ballots had been requested as of last week. That compares with about about 12,000 for the August 2016 primary and 64,000 for that year’s general election.

A look at the percentage difference between absentee ballot requests this year and the number cast in August and November 2016 follows after the jump.

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Plaintiffs in absentee voting case file contempt motion against state

The plaintiffs in a lawsuit over Tennessee’s absentee voting law have filed a contempt motion against the state for alleged violations of the judge’s order to immediately begin supplying mail-in ballots to anyone who asks for one.

Following last week’s ruling, State Election Coordinator Mark Goins sent an email to local officials telling them to “hold off” on sending absentee voting applications until the state could revise its forms or seek a stay in the judge’s order. The state then created a new category on its ballot application form that states voters are requesting to vote by mail because they have “determined it is impossible or unreasonable to vote in person due to the COVID-19 situation and therefore qualify as hospitalized, ill, or disabled and unable to appear at my polling place.”

The plaintiffs argue that the creation of that category wasn’t permitted by the court order, that it includes no definition of the “impossible or unreasonable” standard, and that there is no provision for someone to certify they can’t vote in person because they are caring for someone else.

“This unilateral disregard of the Court’s Order is designed to place increased scrutiny on voters who wish to do nothing more than to rely on this Court’s Order, lead to voter confusion and intimidation, and enable the state to segregate these voters’ absentee ballot requests and refrain from processing them,” according to the motion.

“The State has made calculated decisions to act contrary to the plain text of the Order and has instructed county election officials to do the same,” the plaintiffs said.

Goins told The Associated Press the state is complying and the plaintiffs aren’t citing the most up-to-date guidance.

“We are disappointed that plaintiffs have chosen to pursue a false narrative by leaving out updated guidance we distributed to counties on Friday that is being implemented,” Goins told the AP.

A hearing before Davidson County Chancellor Ellen Hobbs Lyle has been scheduled for Thursday.

Tuesday is last day of early voting in Tennessee

Image: Secretary of State’s office.

Early voting for Tennessee’s presidential primary ends on Tuesday.

About 199,000 people voted early through Saturday, down from 208,000 through the same period in 2016. There had been 29,228 fewer Republican ballots casts through the first 10 days, compared with an increase of nearly 20,000  Democratic ones. GOP voters still accounted for 55% of the early votes cast, but that was down from 66% in the 2016 primary.

Democrats have seen their biggest gains in Shelby County (+4,116 votes), Hamilton (+2,023), Williamson (+1,961), Davidson (1,808), and Knox (+1,417) counties.

Republican turnout has been most depressed in Davidson (-4,087), Knox (-3,907), Rutherford (-2,359), Shelby (-2,202), Monroe (-1,681), and Sumner (-1,459) counties.

Wilson County has had the highest increase in turnout compared with 2016, with 2,560 more voters casting ballots (1,423 Republicans and 1,083 Democrats).  The next highest increases were in Shelby (+1,914), Washington (+1,766), Blount (+891), and Williamson (+783).

Tennessee’s Super Tuesday primary is on March 3.

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Early voting up slightly compared with 2016

About 3,000 more early ballots were cast through the first four days of early voting in Tennessee compared with the same period in the 2016 presidential primary.

Republican voting was down by 3,456 votes, while Democratic voting jumped by 6,465 ballots. It’s not an entirely unexpected result given President Donald Trump isn’t facing serious opposition in the GOP primary. And even then, Republicans have accounted for 60% of the early ballots cast so far.

The biggest increase in Democratic primary votes has so far occurred in Shelby (+3,248), Knox (+1,490), Hamilton (+661) and Rutherford (+404) counties.

Shelby County also saw that largest increase in Republican voters with 1,314, followed by Washington (+707), Blount (+412), Knox (+391), and Wilson (+315) counties.

Davidson County saw the biggest drop in both Democratic (-1,602) and Republican (-1,564) votes. The next biggest GOP drops were in Rutherford (-883), Monroe (-743), and Sumner (-433) counties. Democrats’ next biggest losses were votes in Monroe (-192), White (-133) , and Stewart (-108) counties.

(95-county breakdown after the jump)

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