published Tuesday, February 12th, 2013

Early voting period nears for Chattanooga election


by Cliff Hightower

BY THE NUMBERS

• 103,973: Registered voters in Chattanooga

• 18,773: Votes in last 2009 city election

• 6,671: Early votes in 2009 city election

Source: Hamilton County Election Commission

EARLY VOTING

Early voting begins Wednesday and runs through Feb. 28. Cast ballots at the Hamilton County Election Commission, Brainerd Recreation Center or Northgate Mall. The election commission office will be open 8 a.m. to 6 p.m. Monday through Friday and 9 a.m. to 6 p.m. Saturdays. The satellite locations will be open 10 a.m. to 6 p.m. Monday through Saturday.

Early voting for the Chattanooga mayor and City Council election starts Wednesday, but it's anybody's guess how many people will cast ballots.

"The mayor's race is not hotly contested like it has been in the past," said Scott Allen, assistant administrator for the Hamilton County Election Commission.

Of three mayoral candidates, former state Sen. Andy Berke has far more money and much better name recognition than former city employees Robert Chester Heathington Jr. and Guy Satterfield.

Also in the mix are 24 people running for the City Council's nine districts. Two races are uncontested and two are for open seats.

Dr. Richard Wilson, political science professor at the University of Tennessee at Chattanooga, said he thinks there are enough contests to draw city voters to the polls.

"I think there are enough close races across the City Council that there could be a fairly good turnout," he said.

But Wilson said even strong turnout would pale relative to other elections.

"It's never going to be a presidential election," he said.

Voting this year will culminate on March 5.

Almost 19,000 people, or 18 percent of registered city voters, cast ballots in the 2009 city election, where incumbent Mayor Ron Littlefield won a second term by staving off a challenge by former Parks and Recreation Director Rob Healy.

Allen said that is a low voter turnout for an election, and it could be worse this year.

"Historically, the city elections have always had a low voter turnout," he said.

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