NASHVILLE — Just over half of Tennessee's 4.4 million registered voters have cast ballots ahead of the state's Nov. 3 presidential election as the coronavirus has pushed residents to polling sites during the 14-day early voting period as well as to mailboxes with their absentee-by-mail ballots.
Republican Secretary of State Tre Hargett said Friday that 2,280,767 Tennesseans — or 51% of the state's 4,438,055 registered voters — had voted through Thursday, the last day of early voting.
Of that figure, 2,070,339 cast ballots at early voting sites across the state's 95 counties while another 210,408 voted absentee-by-mail.
That's not just a 34.95% increase over comparable 2016 numbers, it also represents nearly 90% of the 2,545,271 Tennesseans who turned out during the course of the entire 2016 general election, including Election Day.
The election's big draw is the contest between Republican President Donald Trump and Democrat and former Vice President Joe Biden.
Democrats last won the Tennessee presidential vote in 1996, when then-President Bill Clinton and Vice President Al Gore took the Volunteer State by a plurality. Four years later, Gore, a former senator and congressman from Tennessee, lost his home state to Republican George W. Bush, who won the national election as well.
Georgia's three weeks of early voting, which was to end on Friday, has broken previous records as well. Secretary of State Brad Raffensperger said in a noon update that 3.7 million ballots had been cast so far.
Raffensperger said early, in-person ballots totaled 2,538,125, while the number of absentee-by-mail ballots cast stood at 1,170,089.
In contrast, at the close of polls in 2016, the total ballots cast in the Nov. 3 election stood at 2,110,804. Total turnout in Georgia this year is 71% higher than four years earlier, Georgia officials say.
But while Georgia Republicans have dominated state and federal offices in recent years, the state is now seen as tight with two competitive U.S. Senate seats on the ballot. Both Trump and Biden are making last-minute runs through the Peach State.
We may not know results on election night
Election night usually ends with results. This year will probably be different due to record-breaking early voting and the deluge of voting by mail-in ballots. Read more on how the Times Free Press plans to handle this and where we get information on election results.
Back in Tennessee, Hamilton County saw the number of early voting and absentee ballots combined jump 38.58% over 2016 totals. This year, 87,418 Hamilton County residents voted early and another 16,172 have already voted absentee-by-mail ballots — a total of 103,590 votes cast.
Four years earlier, county residents cast 70,716 early ballots while another 4,035 voted absentee by mail for a total of 74,751.
In Bradley County this fall, 37,246 residents have voted — 35,005 voting early and another 2,241 voting absentee. That's a 32.33% increase over 2016, when 27,379 residents voted early and 766 cast absentee-by-mail ballots.
In six Tennessee counties — Cheatham, Davidson, Loudon, Rutherford, Williamson and Wilson — turnout from early and absentee voting has already surpassed the early, absentee and Election Day turnout totals from 2016.
Contact Andy Sher at firstname.lastname@example.org or 615-255-0550. Follow on Twitter @AndySher1.