As voters streamed in and out of the Hamilton County Election Commission headquarters Thursday for their last chance to vote early, Republicans outnumbered Democrats by 2.5 to 1.
By noon, election officials had tallied a total of nearly 7,500 voters - about 2,080 Democrats to 5,300 Republicans. That's more than double the number of early voters in the 2010 primary elections but a tiny fraction of the county's nearly 220,000 registered voters.
Local party leaders said that based on voter turnout, the Hamilton County Commission and sheriff's races are drawing the most interest. Seven of nine commission seats are contested, and incumbent Sheriff Jim Hammond is battling sheriff's office patrol Sgt. Chris Harvey in the Republican primary.
Republican Party Chairman Tony Sanders said turnout was high in Commission District 1, where longtime Republican Commissioner Fred Skillern faces Randy Fairbanks, and in District 7, where three Republicans and two Democrats are waging primary battles for the chance to replace outgoing Commissioner Larry Henry. Three commission races will be decided in the primary.
Democratic Party Chairman Terry Lee thought back to last year's Chattanooga council elections, where every contested council member - five of the nine races - was defeated.
If this year's results track, he said, there could be some upsets on the commission, he said.
"In low turnouts, the people who are more likely to vote are those upset about something rather than people that think things are going well," he said.
The first week of early voting was extremely slow, election officials said, but the pace picked up in the second week.
Last Thursday, only 2,655 people, or 1 percent of registered voters, had cast ballots.
At the election commission headquarters Thursday, several people who came on their lunch break said they liked the convenience of early voting. A few said they wanted to vote specifically to upset an incumbent.
As Beverly Adams walked out, she said tried to get both party ballots because it was difficult to decide which one to take.
"They told me no," she said with a laugh.
Contact staff writer Joy Lukachick at email@example.com or 423-757-6659.