NASHVILLE - Tennesseans and Georgians continued casting record numbers of early votes in the Nov. 3 presidential election last week.
In Hamilton County, in-person early voting and mail-in absentee figures through Saturday threatened to eclipse 2016's totals with four more days of early voting still left this week.
During the first 10 days of early voting through Saturday, 1.65 million Tennesseans had cast in-person or absentee mail-in ballots, according to figures released Sunday afternoon by Secretary of State Tre Hargett.
That's a 39.84% increase, or 471,097 more voters, than the 1.18 million people who cast early ballots in 2016.
Across the border in Georgia, 2.75 million ballots had been been cast as of 5 p.m. EDT on Sunday, already more than double 2016's total 1.3 million in-person early and absentee-by-mail figures, according to numbers released Sunday by Georgia Secretary of State Brad Raffensperger. Of that, 35,665 voted Sunday in counties where polls were open.
Georgia's total 11-day figures so far this year show just over 1.79 million residents cast in-person early votes, while another 957,803 voted by mail.
Like Tennessee and other states, Georgia's turnout is driven primarily by the contest between Republican President Donald Trump and Democrat Joe Biden. But voters there also have two separate, fiercely contested OVERSET FOLLOWS:U.S. Senate races on the ballot.
By the end of business on Saturday, Hamilton County Election Commission figures show 72,921 voters had cast in-person or absentee-by-mail ballots during the first 10 days of early voting through Saturday. Of that, 58,253 cast in-person ballots. Another 14,668 voted absentee by mail. On Saturday alone, 5,106 people cast ballots, with 4,581 voting in person while another 525 voted absentee.
Four years ago at this juncture, 50,767 Hamilton Countians had cast in-person or absentee ballots. Voters this year have now exceeded that by 43.64%. Put another way, the additional 22,154 county voters casting ballots during the first 10 days in 2020 is comparable to the entire population of the city of East Ridge.
And with early voting continuing Monday through Thursday, it's virtually certain Hamilton County will burst through the previous 14-day period record of 74,751.
This year, amid coronavirus concerns as well as a relaxation of Tennessee's strict absentee-by-mail rules, the number of mail-in votes has exploded both locally and statewide. The 14,668 Hamilton Countians who voted absentee through Saturday amount to a whopping 263.5% increase over 2016 totals.
In adjoining Bradley County, according to Hargett's office, 26,794 people had cast in-person early or mail-in ballots through Saturday. That's an increase of 6,632 people - a 32.89% increase over 2016.
Hargett said in a news release last week the "massive turnout shows Tennesseans' confidence in the safety precautions taken by county election commissions. As I visit early voting sites across the state, I continue to see elections officials doing a great job helping voters cast a ballot in a smooth and efficient process."
In Georgia, Raffensperger on Sunday called the state "a leader in election access. Notwithstanding the pandemic, voters in the Peach State can take advantage of no-excuse absentee ballot voting by mail or through a secure drop box; three weeks of early, in-person voting; or Election Day voting."
According to Raffensberger, another 126,689 Georgians had cast in-person ballots as of 8 p.m. EDT on Saturday. A total of 1,754,798 have voted in person, while 946,753 absentee ballots have been cast.
Contact Andy Sher at email@example.com or 615-255-0550. Follow on Twitter @AndySher1.