Voters head to polls in four weeks

Loudon County Election Commission representatives Susan Harrison, left, and Tabitha Oody test voting machines Friday at the county office building.

Loudon County Election Commission is already busy preparing for the 2020 elections.

Early voting is Feb. 12-25 before the March 3 Presidential Preference Primary. The ballot will include races for Loudon County assessor of property and circuit court clerk.

Staff has been getting ready over a span of six months, Susan Harrison, LCEC administrator, said.

“Getting the voting machines ready, issuing petitions, getting petitions back in,” she said. “It’s just a multitude of stuff getting everything ready ... checking petitions to make sure the person qualifies, getting workers together, coordinating schedules for early voting and election day, making sure you’ve got your machine techs available, getting the voting machines ready for their programming Friday.”

Voting machines are expected to arrive Friday and will undergo testing starting at 7 a.m.

The race for property assessor is always on the March ballot, but the court clerk position will also be decided in this cycle.

“Whoever wins that race will serve out the two-year unexpired term in the office,” Harrison said. “That’s an odd one because we usually don’t have that one on this ballot, but this time we have it to fill out the term.”

Harold Amburn has served as a county election worker for more than a decade and is excited to return to the polls this year. He believes more people should take advantage of early voting.

“First of all, before any election, there is a training period and each poll worker receives training,” he said. “New law changes, new election laws, new machines, different processes and we all get the training. Early voting is one of the best things that’s ever happened to our election system, and I wish people, and they are taking advantage of it, but I wish they would really take advantage of it because it relieves the stress of trying to get off of work or trying to vote from the hospital or trying to vote from somewhere on election day.”

Every election sees a portion of potential voters either not show up or leave without voting due to unanswered questions or concerns, which is why Amburn is encouraging people to fulfill their civic duty.

“The actual process is very simple during early voting or election day — you show up to the polls to vote,” he said. “Somebody there is going to be able to assist you with every question that you have, and we can give you an answer. Our goal is to never have anybody leave who’s not voted. Now we don’t always meet that, there are some rules that we have to go by just like everybody else does, but our goal is to make sure that everybody gets to vote. I think we’re pretty successful with that.”

The county’s voting process has experienced few hiccups over the years.

“I’m also very pleased with Loudon County because there is absolutely no fraud,” Amburn said. “I’ve been doing elections and working for Susan for years now, several elections, and we only ever had one case of a voter mix-up, and it was a senior-junior, father-and-son team and it was the poll workers fault, it wasn’t the father and son. We rectified it, took a phone call and got both of them talked to. Susan Harrison runs a very tight ship, and she doesn’t put up with any ... if it’s not by the rules, we ain’t doing it.”

The coming voting period follows the 2016 presidential primary that saw nearly 12,500 Loudon County voters cast ballots. Officials are expecting a larger turnout this year.

“I’ve talked to several of the poll workers and to some of the election commissioners, and I think the turnout’s going to be probably the biggest turnout we’ve ever seen,” Amburn said. “It’s going to be busy. I don’t know that we’re doing this exactly, but I think that we may be even extending some early voting days at different locations throughout the county, so not past the beginning and end date. Sometimes we spend maybe three days at another location, like at Tellico Village. I think she’s (Harrison) contemplating having another day or two at those locations.”

Two full-time early voting locations will be open 10 a.m.-6 p.m. Monday-Friday and 9 a.m.-noon Saturdays. Lenoir City’s location is 100 West Broadway at Roane State Community College. Loudon’s location is 100 River Road at the county office building. A temporary location in Tellico Village will be open 10 a.m.-6 p.m. Feb. 18-21 at Chota Recreation Center, 145 Awohili Drive, Loudon.

The last day to register to vote is Feb. 3. Absentee ballot requests must also be made by Feb. 25. For more information, visit www.loudoncountyvotes.com.