Early voting begins today for a November election that includes races at the local, state level and federal level.
For Loudon County Election Commission, the presidential election is the “Super Bowl,” Susan Harrison, county election administrator, said.
“You plan for the unexpected to happen and hope that you have a game plan for the unexpected,” Harrison said.
Races for November include U.S. president, U.S. House of Representatives District 2, Tennessee House of Representatives Districts 21 and 32 and U.S. Senate. Locally, city council and mayoral seats are up in Lenoir City, Greenback and Philadelphia. Voters will also decide on Lenoir City Board of Education and Lenoir City recorder/treasurer.
“I predict that this will be the biggest election that Loudon County’s ever seen, at least that’s what we’re preparing for,” Harrison said.
Absentee ballot turnout could surpass the recent record-breaking total of 1,952 from August.
Harrison said so far the election commission has mailed more than 3,000 absentee ballots.
“It takes a lot more manpower in the office to be able to process all those because it’s very time consuming,” Harrison said. “Some days we’ve gotten as many as 400 back at one time. That is just all day. It’s all we could do is work on absentee ballots.”
Tabitha Oody, election commission representative, agreed working on absentee ballots has been “very time consuming.”
“Half the morning, because you have to check them in, you have to log them, we have to stamp them that we’ve received them,” Oody said.
Harrison said voter registration is up over the last presidential election, which had 23,861 people vote out of 34,079 people registered. Currently, there are 38,512 people registered.
“It tells you they’re going to vote,” Harrison said. “... In the last year I think we’ve registered about 4,000 people and that tells you people are going to come out and vote if they’re taking that time to get registered.”
Harrison predicts at least 25,000-28,000 people will vote.
For 42-year election commission machine technician Glen Quillen, that’s a good sign.
“The more voters the better off we are in my opinion,” Quillen said. “That’s a hard thing to do is to get people out to vote.”
Similar to August, certain health protocols will be followed for voter safety.
“To my knowledge no one that voted in person or a worker came down with COVID, to our knowledge, and I think that we would have been notified,” Harrison said. “... All the workers wore masks and gloves. We offered the voters hand sanitizer, gloves, their own personal ink pen. We asked them to use a mask, but we could not require them to use a mask. We got some very good comments, feedback from Tellico Village about our early voting out there about how the protocols were all very good.”
Early voting goes through Oct. 29. Locations include the Loudon County office building, Roane State Community College in Lenoir City and the Christian Life Center of the Community Church at Tellico Village.
For more information about times and locations, visit www.loudoncounty votes.com.
“We always say avoid the lines on election day and vote early,” Harrison said. “If you do have any concerns about COVID, though, I would encourage you to go ahead and absentee vote. We’ve had no problems whatsoever with our receiving mail. The local post offices have worked excellent with us about making sure our mail is coming through. We’ve mailed out roughly 3,000 and we already have almost 2,000 back. We have almost two-thirds of them already back in. Most of them are seeing the two- to three-day in the mail service at the most.”