Early voting comparison
Source: Bradley County Election Commission
CLEVELAND, Tenn. — A proposed wheel tax spurred thousands of voters to cast early ballots in Bradley County ahead of Thursday's state primaries and local general elections.
By the end of early voting at 4 p.m. Saturday, 8,155 people had made their choices, according to the Bradley County Election Commission office. The county has 58,020 active voters. In the August 2008 election, the county recorded 5,189 early votes.
"A lot of people have voted early,'' said Phaedra Walker, deputy county elections administrator.
Thursday's election is for party primaries to nominate state legislators and U.S. Congress members. The final election in those races is in November, along with the presidential vote.
Most Bradley County early voters who asked questions, however, wanted to know if the wheel tax was on the ballot, election workers said.
Voters are being asked for a yes or no vote on a proposed $32 wheel tax per car, half that for motorcycles.
"If we win, it will be during early voting,'' according to Peggy Pesterfield, a city school board member.
Some city and county schools have advocated the tax on their permanent signs all summer.
Advocates say schools need more space.
But a Republican Party statement opposing the tax reads, "The party's opposition to the wheel tax is not an attack on our local education system. Our party opposes the tax because it will significantly increase the county's local debt load.''
Local early voting reflects larger turnouts across the state, according to the Tennessee Election Commission, a division of the Tennessee Secretary of State's Office.
Early voting historically reflects about half the votes cast in Bradley County elections. In March's presidential preference primary in Bradley County, 4,945 votes were cast early and another 6,132 on election day.
Randall Higgins covers news in Cleveland, Tenn., for the Times Free Press. He started work with the Chattanooga Times in 1977 and joined the staff of the Chattanooga Times Free Press when the Free Press and Times merged in 1999. Randall has covered Southeast Tennessee, Northwest Georgia and Alabama. He now covers Cleveland and Bradley County and the neighboring region. Randall is a Cleveland native. He has bachelor’s degree from Tennessee Technological University. His awards ...