published Sunday, September 30th, 2012

Hamilton County voter registration hits record high


by Chris Carroll


Voters enter the Hamilton County Election Commission building in this file photo.
Voters enter the Hamilton County Election Commission building in this file photo.
Photo by Dan Henry.

Key dates in Hamilton County

Oct. 6: Last day to register by mail to vote

Oct. 8: Last day to register in person to vote

Oct. 30: Last day to request absentee ballot

Oct.17-Nov.1: Early voting Nov. 6: Election Day

Source: Hamilton County Election Commission

HAMILTON COUNTY VOTERS

Registered voters in presidential elections:

2004 -- 176,671

2008 -- 205,382

2012 -- 219,864*

  • Through Friday morning

Election Commission

Where is the Hamilton County Election Commission?

700 River Terminal Road

Chattanooga, TN 37406

Election Commission hours this week:

Monday-Friday 8 a.m.-4 p.m.

Saturday 9 a.m.-12 p.m.

FOR MORE INFORMATION

To find out more about registration and voter ID requirements or for other election information in your state:

Tennessee: Go to www.tn.gov/sos/election/ or call the state voter hotline at 1-877-850-4959.

Georgia: Go to sos.georgia.gov/elections/ or call the state office at 404-656-2871.

Alabama: Go to www.sos.alabama.gov/elections/ or call the state office at 334-242-7210 or 1-800-274-8683.

Source: Tennessee, Georgia and Alabama secretary of state's offices

Ashley Von Schaaf watched from the sidelines in the last presidential election, too young to vote but old enough to internalize U.S. Sen. Barack Obama's speeches.

Four years later, the Chattanooga State Community College student doesn't see the hope and change she heard about.

"I think with his business background and how he was brought up," she said, "Mitt Romney will make a real change in bettering our society."

Mathew Plott can't wait to cancel out her ballot. Active in Democratic groups at the University of Tennessee at Chattanooga, the history major routinely talks up the president, emphasizing his work on women's issues, gay rights and reducing interest rates for student loans.

"He's done everything I hoped for," he said. "It's my first time voting, and I'm superexcited about it."

Both 19 years old, Plott and Von Schaaf are among the 15,000 Hamilton County voters who have registered since the 2008 presidential election, not counting an additional 2,000 forms in the processing pipeline, records show.

The nearly 220,000 people registered to vote as of Friday morning is the highest total ever for Hamilton County and a 24 percent increase over 2004. Officials attributed the jump to population growth.

With the registration deadline still a week away, elections administrator Charlotte Mullis-Morgan said a stream of young people could help the county match its 2004-to-2008 increase, when 25,000 new voters registered between presidential contests. The last day to register at the Election Commission is Oct. 8. Even though it's Columbus Day, the building will keep normal business hours.

Registration forms also are available at local public libraries, post offices and the Election Commission website. Mailed forms must be postmarked by Oct. 6.

This year's biggest voting change involves a requirement that voters must show government-issued photo identification to cast ballots at the polls. Acceptable forms of ID include current or expired driver licenses, U.S. military IDs, U.S. passports, gun permit cards and federal and state employee IDs. Student ID cards from state universities will not be accepted.

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