This story was updated Oct. 19, 2018, at 9:49 p.m. with more information.
NASHVILLE — Tennesseans are continuing their blistering pace in early voting with the number of voters having cast ballots during the first three days in advance of the Nov. 6 election nearing 300,000, at the very least.
With competitive U.S. Senate and gubernatorial races with no incumbent simultaneously up for the first time since 2002 and a nationally charged political atmosphere, at least 281,000Tennesseans had voted by the end of business Friday, according to Secretary of State Tre Hargett's website.
Voting times and hours
› Brainerd Recreation Center, 1010 N. Moore Road. Monday through Saturday, 10 a.m. to 6 p.m.
› Collegedale City Hall, 4910 Swinyar Drive. Monday through Saturday, 10 a.m. to 6 p.m.
› Hixson Community Center, 5401 School Drive. Monday through Saturday, 10 a.m. to 6 p.m.
› Hamilton County Election Commission office, 700 River Terminal Road. Monday through Friday, 8 a.m. to 7 p.m., and Saturdays from 9 a.m. to 6 p.m.
Early voting continues through Nov. 1.
Preliminary figures for Friday were 50,000, but the total will be higher because some 26 of the state's 95 counties had yet to submit their Friday figures to the state by early evening.
For example, Hamilton County had yet to submit figures to the state. But the county Election Commission website listed an additional 5,359 people voting early or casting provisional ballots, bringing the county's Wednesday through Friday total to 16,292.
Davidson County, where nearly 28,000 people voted Wednesday and Thursday, had yet to file as well. Knox County had not reported with the state either.
Across Tennessee on Thursday, nearly as many people voted — 110,258 — as did the 115,292 who voted Wednesday, the first day of the two-week early voting period.
Voters on Wednesday easily blew through similar Day 1 totals for similar midterms in 2014 and 2010 by huge margins.
Early voting continues through Nov. 1, excluding Sundays.
Speaking on Wednesday, State Election Coordinator Mark Goins marveled that "Tennesseans crushed first day early voting numbers for a midterm," with the number of voters only about 20,000 or so behind the Day 1 totals in the 2016 presidential race.
A major reason for this year's high interest is the result of Tennessee Democrats' first serious attempt in years to stage a comeback with credible candidates in the two top races — U.S. Senate and governor. And it comes in the midst of national midterm elections in which President Donald Trump and fellow Republicans are working furiously to keep the Senate under GOP control.
For more information visit our voter guide at timesfreepress.com/vg2.
Tennessee's Senate contest, one of the nation's fiercest, is a donny brook between Republican U.S. Rep. Marsha Blackburn of Brentwood and Democrat Phil Bredesen, a former two-term governor and former Nashville mayor. They're vying for the seat now held by retiring Republican Sen. Bob Corker of Chattanooga, a seat which Republicans have held since the 1994 election.
Latest spending by the warring candidates and independent groups has now hit $55 million, a record exceeding the 2006 record, excluding inflation, set by Corker and Democrat Harold Ford Jr. in their contest.
Bredesen has now spent $11.7 million, while Blackburn has spent $9.1 million. But the race as well as Tennessee television and radio airwaves is awash with an estimated $34 million from independent groups as Republican and Democratic allies wage their proxy war here over what could be control of the Senate.
Republicans currently have 51 members to Democrats' 49 in the Senate.
Another reason for the higher turnout is the open governor's race between Democrat Karl Dean, a former Nashville mayor, and Republican businessman Bill Lee to succeed term-limited Republican Gov. Bill Haslam.
While Lee leads comfortably in the latest polls, it's the most competitive governor's race here since Bredesen was first elected to the governor's mansion in 2002.
Goins has said he believes that early voting, which includes in-person voting and absentee ballots, will account for 55 to 60 percent of all ballots cast in the Nov. 6 general election.
Other area counties' totals for Wednesday and Thursday include:
- Bradley County: 3,749
- Coffee County: 1,985
- Franklin County: 1,467
- Grundy County: 320
- Loudon County: 2,816
- Marion County: 927
- Meigs County: 466
- Monroe County: 2,052
- Polk County: 338
- Rhea County: 817
- Sequatchie County: 517
- Van Buren County: 213
Contact Andy Sher at firstname.lastname@example.org or 615-255-0550. Follow on Twitter @AndySher1.