Early voting numbers way up

A sign in front of the Loudon County office building displays the early voting schedule.

Less than halfway through the early voting schedule, turnout is reaching record highs for a gubernatorial election cycle.

Though Monday, 5,916 voters have cast a ballot in Loudon County either through early voting in Lenoir City and Loudon or by absentee and nursing home ballot.

“It’s very unusual for a governor’s election,” Susan Harrison, Loudon County administrator of elections, said.

The highest early voting total in Loudon County for a governor’s election was 9,272 in 2010, Harrison said. She believes that total will be passed this year.

There could be several factors for the high turnout, but Harrison believes the two statewide races are playing the biggest role.

“There’s a big Senate race, a governor’s race,” Harrison said. “There’s a lot at stake this election. I think that’s what’s driving it.”

Arnold Hawkins has helped run the polls in Loudon. Hawkins, who has been a volunteer with the election commission for more than 20 years, compared the turnout so far to a presidential election.

“It makes the day go by quicker,” he said. “It’s I think more stressful on the people (voting) when there’s a lot of them because you’ve got machines but they can’t all get in there at the same time and they have to wait in line a little bit, but the wait’s not longer than three or four minutes.”

Hawkins enjoys the chance to see the enthusiasm people have to vote. He hopes the large vote totals won’t discourage anyone from heading to the polls.

“Last week they said up in Lenoir City they had a two-hour wait in some places,” Hawkins said. “You can drive down here 10 minutes and you can easily walk right in. We got them out pretty quick. The good thing about early voting is you can go to Tellico Village or Lenoir City or you can come down here. You’ve got a choice. You really don’t have to stay in line that long if you don’t want to.”

With the increase early, Harrison expects there will be more voting in city elections this year than in years past.

Hawkins believes for some in Loudon the city elections have been just as big an inspiration to head to the polls as any other race.

Early voting continues through Nov. 1. Election day is Nov. 6.

“It just makes it for more of a fast-paced election,” Harrison said. “You prepare for high numbers and hope you get high numbers. It makes it more interesting because you stay busy. You might bring in an extra person or two sometimes just to help with the load.”