Nine precincts fail to draw voters in Super Tuesday's low turnout

photo East Lake resident Stanley Lewis pauses for a moment after making choices on his ballot at noon on Super Tuesday. Lewis was the only person voting at noon at the East Lake precinct.

BY THE NUMBERS• 128: Number of Hamilton County precincts• 9: Number of precincts with zero voter turnout• 19: Number of precincts with fewer than 10 ballots cast• 3: Number of precincts with 10-20 ballots cast• 6: Number of precincts with 21-50 ballots cast• 49: Number of precincts with less than 10 percent of votes castOTHER COUNTIESNumber of precincts in state's largest counties• Davidson: 163• Knox: 92• Shelby: 236COMING SUNDAYA look at Hamilton County and Tennessee Presidential voting trends on Super Tuesday

Poll workers in nine Hamilton County precincts spent 12 hours on Super Tuesday with a stack of ballots and waited for voters. None came.

Less than 18 percent - 37,844 - of the county's registered voters showed up Tuesday.

And of the county's 128 precincts, 49 had turnout percentages in the single digits.

This year's presidential primary election numbers were about half of what they were in 2008, when two hotly contested primaries drew 74,417 voters to the polls. But Hamilton County Elections Administrator Charlotte Mullis-Morgan said 2008 is not a good measuring stick.

This year's figures more closely track those of previous presidential preference primaries. In 2004, election records show that only 27,514 voters cast ballots, or 16.2 percent of those registered.

"The presidential preference primary is just not usually a big election," Mullis-Morgan said.


The county's political party chairmen said they weren't surprised by Tuesday's numbers.

In 2008, 38,158 Democrats and 36,194 Republicans cast primary ballots.

This year's Democratic tally was only 5,227. Republicans made up the remaining 32,617.

No race on the Democratic ticket was contested.

This year's battles will be in August and November, said Hamilton County Democratic Party Chairman Paul Smith. On the ballot Aug. 2 will be the county general election for District 3 County Commission, county mayor and property assessor. Also that day will be the 3rd Congressional District primary.

"It's going to be very spirited," Smith said. "I think that we're going to do really well."

Hamilton County Republican Party Chairman Marty Von Shaaf said that even with the contested Republican presidential race, he expected Tuesday's low turnout.

"We look for a much, much larger number in the general elections, particularly November," he said. "The way that this nation is headed, it's just important that we get the vote out."


Tuesday's hottest local race was a Republican primary between interim District 3 County Commissioner Mitch McClure and challenger Marty Haynes.

The campaign is a special election to fill a seat vacated when Jim Coppinger became interim county mayor after Claude Ramsey left to become deputy governor. The August election will be for the remainder of the term, which ends in 2014.

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Of the 29,940 registered voters in that district, 5,331 cast Republican ballots.

Haynes won, taking home 56.8 percent of the party vote with victories in 11 of the district's 14 precincts.

McClure, pastor of Middle Valley Church of God, did well in the north end of the district, winning Lakesite, Middle Valley and Hixson 5.

"We held our own," Haynes said of his performance in McClure's strongest territory. "We wanted to do better, but we didn't [in those precincts]."

Haynes said his team strategized about what areas of the district he needed to win.

"You have to shore up your base and expand from there," he said.

Now he's begun scheduling meetings with McClure's supporters in hopes to win them over before the general election with Democrat Mitzi Yates. Yates received 318 votes Tuesday.

"It was really Democrats who came out to give a complimentary vote at this point," Smith said of that number. "I'm surprised our opponents didn't have more turnout."


Four of the nine precincts where no one voted Tuesday were empty for the second straight Presidential primary.

Precincts named Airport 2, Northwoods 4, Red Bank 4 and Soddy-Daisy 5 have a combined 52 registered voters. Some have zero, but are necessary due to the county's geography and the mismatched political lines of city, county, state and federal districts.

Each precinct requires a worker, who's paid $100, and an officer, who costs $160.

The election commission has been working to reduce the number of small precincts as they form new ones with redrawn lines based on the 2010 census, but Mullis-Morgan said it will be an uphill battle.

"We're going to start on it Tuesday," she said. "We did get the maps and they're at the GIS department."