Early voting is increasingly a routine process for voters here and across the nation. It also is an increasingly popular way to fulfill an important civic duty in a convenient manner. Large numbers of Tennesseans and Georgians have proved that this week - so many that election officials in both states predict that record numbers voters are likely to cast an early ballot before the process concludes early next month.
In Tennessee, voting officials report, 229,000 early ballots were cast in the first two days of early balloting. Georgia officials report that more than 260,000 ballots were cast in the same period. On Friday, the surge continued. Precinct officials in both states reported a steady turnout, with some indicating that lines already had formed within minutes of the polling stations opening for the day.
There is ample opportunity for voters to cast an early ballot. In Hamilton County, stations are open Monday through Saturday at the Brainerd Recreation Center at 1010 North Moore Road; at Eastwood Church at 4300 Ooltewah-Ringgold Road; at Northgate Mall next to Belk; and at the Hamilton County Election Commission office at 700 River Terminal Road just off Amnicola Highway.
Georgia voters should call county election offices for information on early voting sites and times. Despite the early crowds, poll workers in both states so far have proved adept at handling the crowds and expediting the voting process.
Early voting allows individuals to cast a ballot at a time of their choosing rather than within the confines of Election Day. The process is the same as casting a ballot in the more traditional time frame. One needs to show up at a polling place at the proper time with photo identification in hand, register with officials and then vote. Tens of thousands in this area and millions across the country have already done so.
The early rush to the polls suggests continued high interest in national, state and local elections. It is also a sign that the American embrace of democratic government remains strong. Both are extraordinarily welcome.