More residents turning out to vote early in Bradley County, Tenn.

More residents turning out to vote early in Bradley County, Tenn.

April 23rd, 2018 by Paul Leach in Local Regional News

Bradley County early voting

The early voting period for the May 1 election began April 11 and ends April 26.

Early voting hours
 Monday through Friday: 9 a.m. to 6 p.m.
 Saturday: 9 a.m. to 4 p.m.

Early voting locations
 Bradley County Election Commission Office
155 Broad St. NW, Cleveland, TN 37311
 Bradley Square Mall
Paul Huff Parkway NW, Cleveland, TN 37312
 Food City
2310 McGrady Drive SE, Cleveland, TN 37323

For more information, contact the Bradley County Election Commission Office at 423-728-7115 or visit the election office website at www.bradleyelections.com.

CLEVELAND, Tenn. — Early voters in the Bradley County primary are well on their way to outdoing their turnout from four years ago.

While the absence of long lines at the county's three early voting locations during Thursday's lunch hour might indicate otherwise, the steady streams of voters tell a different story.

As of Wednesday, the midpoint of the 14-day early voting period for the May 1 election, voters had cast 5,140 early and absentee ballots, according to the Bradley County Commission Election Office. That averages 734 voters per day over the first seven days of early voting.

In comparison, the 2014 primary had tallied only 4,152 ballots by the seventh day of early voting, said election administrator Fran Green. That's an average of about 593 voters per day.

Early voting ends Thursday.

"We have actually surpassed the 4,943 early votes cast by the ninth day in 2014," Green said, adding the 2014 early voting period was only 13 days long because of the Good Friday holiday.

In all, voters cast 7,892 early and absentee ballots in the 2014 county primary. That's about 607 voters a day on average for the 13-day early voting period.

In 2014, Republican primary voters decided a heated sheriff race, at least three commission contests, several judge's seats and the attorney general for the 10th Judicial District.

While Republicans don't have to choose judges or the district attorney this time around, they again have several contested commissioner seats to think about as well as a highly publicized sheriff race between incumbent Eric Watson and challenger Steve Lawson.

With only one candidate on the Democratic primary ballot, Republicans primary voters will elect most of the county's officials.

Bradley County voters will, however, elect their commissioners a little differently this election cycle.

Last year, the Bradley County Commission narrowly approved a measure requiring commission candidates to specifically fight for one of the two seats — now called Seat A and Seat B — allotted to each of the county's seven districts. For decades, all the candidates took their chances in districtwide free-for-alls in which the top two vote-getters won the two seats.

Bradley County Commission Vice Chairman Jeff Yarber has long championed the new way, which he has said will encourage voters to use both their votes in commission races. Some voters would undervote because they didn't want to hurt the chances of the favorite candidate, he has argued.

"You have to have an open mind about it," Yarber said recently.

Commissioner Howard Thompson, one of six commissioners who voted against the change, still opposes it.

"I never understood changing the way we've been doing things for the last 40 or 50 years," he has said.

The commission races haven't caused any grief, Green said, who pointed out that people can still choose to undervote.

"The election is running smoothly," Green said. "I haven't received any questions or concerns about the new commission election method."

Contact Paul Leach at paul.leach.press@gmail.com. Follow him on Twitter @pleach_3.