By Cliff Hightower Staff Writer
Voter registration has surged in some counties with hotly contested races and stayed steady in others, area election officials said.
Saturday was the deadline for people to register to vote in the May 2 county primary elections.
Officials in Bradley, Rhea and Marion counties all reported increased registrations.
Bradley County Election Administrator David Ellis said more than 1,000 people registered there in the last two months.
"It’s been steady," Mr. Ellis said.
In Rhea County, Election Coordinator Cathy Lauer said more than 300 people registered in the last 30 days.
"We had a lot to register," said Holly Henegar, Marion County election administrator. "When it’s a big election like this, we always do."
Not all counties reported an increase in registrations. In McMinn and Bledsoe counties, election officials reported a very small number of new registrations.
Bledsoe County Election Administrator Susan Colvard said 25 people registered in her county.
"I wouldn’t call it a surge," she said. "This usually is a big election."
Loretta Sliger, administrator of elections for McMinn County, said there are some contested seats in the county, but it hasn’t translated to more people registering.
"Not anymore than there usually is," Mrs. Sliger said.
All county offices, including county mayor, sheriff, commission and school board, are up for election in August. Local judges, district attorneys and public defenders will be elected as well.
The primary election for state and federal offices such as governor and the state and U.S. House and Senate also is in August.
Area election officials said they expect an even larger surge of registrations before the August balloting.
However, Dr. Bob Swansbrough, political science professor at the University of Tennessee at Chattanooga, said traditionally the race that brings the most voter registration is the presidential election.
"The major push goes on nationally for president simply because there’s more money in the race," Dr. Swansbrough said.
Historically, more registration occurs in general elections because political parties will ride the coattails of a presidential or governor’s race, he said.
While there may be buzz locally about candidates, statistics show there is about a 15 percent decrease in voter turnout during a nonpresidential election, he said.
"The presidential race is what gets the voters out," he said.
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