Hamilton County saw 9% drop in early voting in advance of Thursday's upcoming election

Staff Photo by Matt Hamilton / "I Voted" stickers are set out for voters at the Joe Glasscock Red Bank Community Center in Red Bank on Tuesday, May 3, 2022.

Hamilton County Election Commission figures show 19,629 voters cast ballots during early voting, representing a 9% drop from 2018, in advance of the county's balloting on Thursday for mayor, district attorney and other posts. The election will also serve as a primary for state and federal offices such as governor and state representatives.

Early voting ended Saturday. Election day will be Thursday.

Early voting plummeted more statewide - 23.77% down from four years earlier when a three-way battle raged in the Republican gubernatorial primary, where candidates spent millions of dollars.

This year, the winner of the 2018 contest - incumbent Republican Gov. Bill Lee - was unopposed in his primary. Three relatively unknown Democrats - Carnita Atwater, a Memphis active, Jason Martin, a Nashville physician, and Memphis City Councilman JB Smiley Jr. - are running and lack funds for mass-market television ad buys.

Just 477,973 voters cast ballots statewide during early voting this year, a 149,021-person drop from 2018, when 626,894 voted in the August election.

Four years ago, 21,594 Hamilton County residents cast ballots in the August election. Voting participation was also down 8.85% from 2014, which also had a governor's race on the ballot.

County-level contests will be decided Thursday. The general election for state offices is Nov. 8.

The county's mayoral race features GOP nominee Weston Wamp and Democrat Matt Adams. Wamp, who won a tight primary election battle over Hamilton County Election Commissioner Chairwoman Sabrena Smedley - who later unsuccessfully contested the outcome - has easily outspent Adams. And no Democrat has won the county's top post since 1990.

Other contests on the ballot include the general election contest for Hamilton County district attorney, in which Republican Coty Wamp, sister of Weston Wamp, and Democrat John Allen Brooks, a former county commissioner, are competing.

Also on the ballot are County Commission general election contests and, for the first time, the county's school board contests feature partisan races. Two candidates are running as independents in the heavily Republican county.

"We've seen a lower turnout primarily, I think, because of the number of uncontested races at the state level and the fact there hasn't been a whole lot of campaigning as far as political mailers and advertisements by the candidates that are contested," Hamilton County Election Administrator Scott Allen said in a Monday email to the Chattanooga Times Free Press. "Hamilton County is performing better than much of the state of Tennessee due to the contested local races. We have about 700 outstanding ballots that were mailed by our office and could be returned by the close of polls on election day, so our absentee/early vote numbers will continue to increase."

According to Allen, many voters did not realize that there was even a state primary being conducted.

"They thought they were coming in only to vote in a county general election," he said. "Before election day, I recommend that all voters familiarize themselves with the sample ballots before going to the polls on Thursday."

Election Commission figures show 10,993 Republican voters cast ballots in GOP primaries for state offices, while 7,689 Democrats voted in their primaries for the same. Another 947 voted only in the general election.

Early voting ran from July 15 to July 30, with voters able to take advantage of early voting at six sites, including the Election Commission's office.

Figures show 17,886 took advantage of in-person voting. Here are the tallies for the individual early voting sites:

- Hamilton County Election Commission: 5,731.

- Hixson: 4,031.

- Collegedale: 3,258.

- Brainerd: 2,830.

- Soddy-Daisy: 1,095.

- Snow Hill: 1,041.

Another 1,643 voted by mail.

Contact Andy Sher at asher@timesfreepress.com or 615-255-0550. Follow him on Twitter @AndySher1.