By Michael Davis Staff Writer
Hamilton County Election Administrator Bud Knowles said early voting turnout is lower than normal for May primaries, and he would like to see local political party officials try to improve it.
I think the political parties need to energize their voters, Mr. Knowles said Wednesday morning.
Hamilton County had 1,512 early voters through Tuesday, the fourth day of early voting. On each day, voting has been the highest at the Northgate Mall location, followed by the Election Commission office and the Brainerd Recreation Center, records show.
There are around 183,000 active registered voters in Hamilton County, officials said.
Election Commission officials did not have turnout numbers for the first four days of early voting four years ago, but Mr. Knowles said that by comparison it is lower so far this year.
The May primary elections overall cost more than $151,000 in 2002. Mr. Knowles said he thinks the price will be about 10 percent higher this year, due to factors such as inflation.
Were spending a lot of money for a small turnout, he said.
Hamilton County Democratic Party Chairman Stuart James said the low turnout partially can be attributed to last weekends Easter holiday.
It is a bad time to have early voting because people have been out of town, he said.
Early voting began shortly before the Easter weekend, but did not occur Friday, Saturday or Sunday.
Mr. James said Democratic volunteers will be canvassing neighborhoods this weekend trying to get residents to vote early. He said volunteers will distribute a push card with information on races and local issues.
Hamilton County Republican Party Chairman Bobby Wood said early voting turnout is low because there are few hotly contested races. He said party officials will put their main turnout efforts into the Aug. 3 county general and state and federal primary elections.
I share (Mr. Knowles) concern with him, but I think we will make our special push beginning in August, he said.
Mr. Knowles said early voting has gone smoothly so far, with no complaints about machines and no calls of foul play.
Voters continued to trickle into the Election Commission during a rainy Wednesday morning.
Signal Mountain resident Suzy Deierhoi, 64, said she wanted to vote early since she will be out of town on May 2, Election Day.
While she was particularly interested in the city judicial race and the sheriffs primary, she said there arent a lot of contested races driving election turnout.
Theres so few contested races in the primary that its kind of discouraging to vote, she said.
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EARLY VOTING NUMBERS
Total turnout figures for early voting in Hamilton County:
* Day 1; April 12: 438
* Day 2; last Thursday: 356
* Day 3; Monday: 356
* Day 2; Tuesday: 362
AT A GLANCE
Early voting continues through next Thursday, running all days but Sunday. Hours are 10 a.m. to 6 p.m. at Northgate Mall in the former Casual Corner store near Belk and at the Brainerd Recreation Center.
Voters also can cast ballots from 8 a.m. to 7 p.m. at the Election Commission office downtown. On the last three days of early voting, next Tuesday through Thursday, the Election Commission will be open from 8 a.m. to 8 p.m.