Tennessee early voting sets new record as 1.67 million have their say

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NASHVILLE - A record-breaking 1,675,679 Tennesseans hit the polls to vote early or cast absentee ballots across the state's 95 counties, smashing through a record set in the 2008 presidential election when 1,579,960 people voted.

Preliminary state figures show at least 152,152 Tennesseans voted in person or by absentee ballot on Thursday, the last day of the state's 14-day early voting period for the Nov. 8 election this coming Tuesday. Early voting began Oct. 3.

In Hamilton County, 73,393 people voted early or by mail. Of that number, 6,323 hit the polls on Thursday, according to figures on the Tennessee Secretary of State's Division of Elections website.

Over in Bradley County, 27,990 voted.

Secretary of State Tre Hargett was delighted that 2016, another presidential year, set a new record.

"I'm thrilled people are engaged and took advantage of the convenience of early voting," Hargett said in a news release. "Now our attention turns to Election Day to ensure we continue to conduct fair and honest elections across the state."

Hargett noted a record 1.24 million Tennesseans voted during the March 1 presidential preference primary, dubbed the "SEC Primary" because a number of mostly Southern states with university athletic teams playing in the Southeastern Conference held their primaries that day.

Intense interest in this year's presidential race between Republican Donald Trump and Democrat Hillary are the main draw.

No statewide officials are on the ballot and most of the remaining contests involve Congressional and legislative contests as well as local referendums and some municipal elections.

In a Times Free Press interview earlier this week, Hargett aid he isn't sure whether the high numbers in early voting would mean a record-breaking turnout in Tennessee's overall totals in Tuesday's election.

Hargett, who had previously said early voting could account for 60 percent of the entire vote, said it's possible that more Tennesseans are just voting early.

Voter turnout in Georgia has already broken records as the early voting period enters its last day, announced Secretary of State Brian Kemp.

So far, 2.18 million ballots have been cast for the Nov. 8 election, surpassing the 2008 early ballot total of 2.13 million, Kemp said. Just over 2 million of the 2016 ballots were cast in person and 166,875 were mail-in ballots.

"Georgia voters are highly enthusiastic and taking full advantage of unprecedented access to the ballot box to make sure their voices are heard," Kemp said. "Technology and hard work by our state and county election officials have made the right to vote easier and easier to exercise over the past decade."

Georgia polls will be open 7 a.m. to 7 p.m. on Election Day.