Early voting turnout in Hamilton County places last in state

Jamie Hightower and Carolyn Tatum, election officials, help LaVerne and Ben Bonine of Lookout Valley, Tennessee, get their ballots to vote during early voting at the Hamilton County Election Commission Friday, July 13, 2018 in Chattanooga, Tennessee. While LaVerne was stating that they tend to participate in early voting to avoid the election day crowds, Ben jokingly chimed in with, "we might be in heaven before the real thing."

State election records on early voting that ended July 28 show Hamilton County dead last in voter turnout, a significant drop in Republican balloting comparing 2014 and 2018 and an even more significant increase in Democrat balloting for the same four years.

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Just looking at total early voting turnout, the numbers seem uninteresting with a very slight decline in ballots cast - 0.21 percent. It's when the numbers for voting in each party are singled out, Hamilton County is seeing a shift in voter activity.

Turnout in Hamilton County among Republicans in 2014 was 15,473, compared with just 11,913 in 14 days of early voting in 2018. That's a drop of just more than 23 percent.

But when it comes to Hamilton County Democrats, early voting turnout was a dismal 5,655 in 2014 but this year's early voting tally shows a huge 65-percent jump to 9,338.

Hamilton County has the fifth-most voters among Tennessee's 95 counties but this year is ranked 95th in turnout with just 8.41 percent of registered voters casting early ballots, records show.