Early voting starts in Tennessee

Early voting starts in Tennessee

July 18th, 2014 by Louie Brogdon in Local Regional News

A line of voters stretches around the corner of the building at the Hamilton County Election Commission during early voting in this file photo.

Photo by John Rawlston/Times Free Press.

POLL: Did you or will you vote early?

VOTE EARLY

Early voting will run from today through Aug. 2. Voters need a valid state or federal photo identification card to cast a ballot. All early voting locations will be open from 10 a.m. to 7 p.m., Monday through Saturday except the Hamilton County Election Commission office, which will be open 8 a.m. to 7 p.m. Monday through Friday, and 9 a.m. to 7 p.m. Saturday.

EARLY VOTING LOCATIONS

* Brainerd Recreation Center, 1010 North Moore Road

* Eastwood Church, 4300 Ooltewah-Ringgold Road

* Election Commission, 700 River Terminal Road

* Northgate Mall, outside on the right of Applebee's

Today kicks off early voting in Tennessee's 2014 primaries and local elections, and officials and community groups alike are urging voters to hit the polls.

It also means the end for early voting in Georgia, where run-off elections will be held Tuesday.

Hamilton County Election Administrator Kerry Steelman said this ballot is a big one, and it will be a boon for voters if they vote early.

There are 23 judicial retention questions, 13 federal and Tennessee races and 39 county posts up for election, plus nine contests in six municipalities and a Chattanooga domestic partnership question on the ballot, he said.

"Lengthy ballots have the potential to create longer-than-usual wait times on Election Day, so I strongly encourage voters to consider one of the four early voting locations strategically located across Hamilton County," Steelman said.

One local group, the Chattanooga Leadership Alumni Association, has kicked off a nonpartisan campaign to push people to the polls.

"It's plain and simple. We want to increase voter participation," said Hodgen Mainda, immediate past president of the association.

"We usually have coffee with the candidates, but over the last few cycles, we've noticed it's only the candidates, the volunteers and very little activity from the public," Mainda said.

To help end that trend, the association has made a website and partnered with other groups to educate voters.

"The education goal is this is nonpartisan. We just want folks to be engaged in the electoral process, so we've been educating them about what you need to go vote, where you need to go on Election Day and, most importantly, how convenient it is to go early vote," Mainda said.

In the 2012 county elections, 36 percent of voters cast early ballots, although only 23 percent of the county's 216,003 voters hit the polls.

In 2010, of the 51,805 ballots cast, 16,272 -- or 31 percent -- were cast early.

Contact staff writer Louie Brogdon at lbrogdon@timesfreepress.com or at 423-757-6481.