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Absentee and turnout numbers in the Chattanooga municipal election on Wednesday far exceeded past first-day numbers, as citizens began early voting to pick a new mayor and city council.

With two hours left to go on the first day of early voting, 665 Chattanoogans had cast in-person ballots by 4 p.m. Wednesday, about a 40% increase over the 400 and 464 who showed up during the first day of the 2013 and 2017 municipal elections, respectively.

Absentee votes received to-date are also on the rise, with 837 mail-in ballots received to-date, up about 180% from the same point in 2013 (305) and 2017 (295).

"They started off with a lot of excitement and enthusiasm from a lot of the candidates running for mayor and for city council, which was good to see. There were several camps and candidates and their supporters under those tents waving as voters turned into the office that came to vote today," Administrator of Elections Scott Allen told the Times Free Press on Wednesday. "There's a lot of excitement for sure, and the numbers have risen."

The turnout, Allen notes, follows trends from the November general election, when voters in Hamilton County and across the state lined up day-after-day to vote early. But, with lower traditional turnout in municipal elections, he says the process is moving quickly.

"The lines have been very, very short, or there's been no lines today. Most voters are in and out, from their car, through the building, voted and back to their car in less than five minutes. It's a very streamlined, quick process," Allen said, "I would just encourage voters to take advantage of early voting and come out and see us."

Allen said that a trend away from Election Day voting has brought the county to around 50% of voters voting early and the other 50% voting in person, which he hopes to move closer to 70% early to expedite the process, minimize crowds and allow voters to make residency or other updates to their registration on the spot.

(READ MORE: Times Free Press Voter Guide for Chattanooga's mayoral and city council elections)

Early voting goes until Feb. 25 at three locations.

 

LOCATIONS

— Hamilton County Election Commission

700 River Terminal Road

Chattanooga, TN 37406

Monday-Friday 8 a.m.-6 p.m.

Saturday 10 a.m.-4 p.m.

— Brainerd YFD

1010 North Moore Road

Chattanooga, TN 37411

Monday through Friday (10 a.m.-6 p.m.)

Saturday (10 a.m.-4 p.m.)

— Hixson Community Center

5401 School Drive

Hixson, TN 37415

Monday through Friday (10 a.m.-6 p.m.)

Saturday (10 a.m.-4 p.m.)

 

WHAT TO BRING

All voters must present a federal or Tennessee state ID with the voter's name and photograph. These IDs are acceptable:

— Tennessee driver license with your photo.

— United States passport.

— Photo ID issued by the Tennessee Department of Safety and Homeland Security.

— Photo ID issued by the federal or Tennessee state government.

— United States military photo ID.

 

COVID-19 PRECAUTIONS

The Hamilton County Election Commissions has implemented new procedures to mitigate concerns over COVID-19. The commission is encouraging voters to:

— Wear a face mask.

— Practice social distancing.

— Bring hand sanitizer.

— Bring a blue or black ink pen (the election commission will provide each voter with single-use ink pens and ballot secrecy folders).

— All election officials are required to wear a mask or a face shield.

— All election officials will answer health screening questions.

— Routine cleaning of commonly used surfaces each day of voting will occur.

— Early voting sites will have sneeze guards at each clerk's station.

— Floor markers will be in place to ensure social distancing best practices.

— Hand sanitizer will be available in all polling locations.

— Workers will request that voters notify an election official if they exhibit symptoms of COVID-19.

Contact Sarah Grace Taylor at staylor@timesfreepress.com or 423-757-6416. Follow her on Twitter @_sarahgtaylor.

 

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