Early voters set record in Tennessee

photo Campaign signs fill the view of motorists traveling south on state Highway 153, at Dupont Parkway.

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This year's election fervor - if measured by turnout at the polls - is exceeding that of 2008, the last presidential election cycle.

With two early voting days remaining, Hamilton County's totals were up 76 percent over the same county general and state and congressional primary in 2008. The county's total jumped from 8,136 in August 2008 to 14,327 by Thursday night.

"I've been saying all along this is going to be heavier than 2008," said Hamilton County Elections Administrator Charlotte Mullis-Morgan.

Early voting ended Saturday ahead of this Thursday's county general and state and congressional primary election. Secretary of State Tre Hargett announced Wednesday that this year's statewide numbers set an all-time record for a comparable election.

By Thursday night, the state's total reached 255,137, or 23.7 percent more than the 206,174 ballots cast early in 2008. Of those, 168,623 voters cast Republican ballots and 75,726 voted Democrat.

Local Republican Party Chairman Marty Von Schaaf said his organization can take little credit for the increased numbers.

"The separate campaigns have been doing their own efforts to get the vote out," Von Schaaf said. "Our get-out-the-vote effort is going to come in November."

Several competitive state and congressional Republican primaries have stirred local interest. The three-way congressional 3rd District race among Chuck Fleischmann, Scottie Mayfield and Weston Wamp has dumped more than $1.8 million into the district.

Four Republicans are challenging U.S. Sen. Bob Corker, including Fred R. Anderson, Mark Twain Clemens, Brenda S. Lenard and Zach Poskevich.

Though several of Hamilton County's state legislative races have GOP contests, the most public of those has been the fight between Todd Gardenhire and Greg Vital for Senate District 10.

District 10, currently held by Democrat Andy Berke, became more red in this year's redistricting process. Every 10 years the state Legislature redraws political boundaries to account for population shifts and density of black voters.

Though Berke isn't seeking re-election, three other Democrats are going after the seat -- David Testerman, a Hamilton County school board member; Quenston Coleman, a community organizer; and Andraé McGary, a city councilman.

But the most bitter pill for the local Democratic Party has been the pitting of two iconic incumbents against each another. Longtime state legislators Tommie Brown and JoAnne Favors are both seeking the seat in House District 28 after Favors' District 29 was redrawn more Republican.

"They have put two women together to reduce the number of women and African-Americans in the Legislature to try to make a veto-proof House," said Hamilton County Democratic Party Chairman Paul Smith about state Republicans.

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Though the party hasn't been involved in competitive primaries, members have been working to deliver voters to the polls, Smith said.

"We're organizing rides to the polls for those who may need them," he said. "We're going to put robocalls out into our key neighborhoods where the precincts have been changed and the polling locations have been changed and how to contact us if they need rides."

Thursday's election is only the second under the state's new voter ID law, which requires registered voters to present a qualified photo identification at the polls.

Mullis-Morgan said there haven't been any photo ID mishaps in early voting.

"But wait until November," she said. "There are so many people who don't vote any other time than a November presidential election."