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Early voting turnout higher
Oct 31, 2006 12:00 am
Wilson County is part of a statewide trend that has seen an increase in early voting during this mid-term election.
More than 400,000 Tennesseans have already cast a vote in the election, which has put the Volunteer State squarely in the national spotlight with a hotly-contested U.S. Senate election.
Locally, about 7,417 were cast as of Thursday with the Wilson County Election Commission. Early voting locations are in Lebanon and Mt. Juliet.
State Elections Coordinator Brook Thompson told the Associated Press last week he believed the race between Democrat Rep. Harold Ford Jr. and Republican Bob Corker to replace outgoing Senate Majority Leader Bill Frist has driven the turnout up statewide.
"Clearly, that race is driving the turnout in this state," he said.
Two constitutional amendments – one to ban recognition of same-sex marriage and one to allow local governments to freeze property taxes for senior citizens – has also driven folks out, Thompson said.
Closer to home, Election Coordinator Lynn Harris said her staff has run into problems with voters who don't fully understand the proposed amendments. She explained that poll workers are not legally allowed to spell out the amendments for them.
"There seems to be a lot of confusion," Harris said. "They may know what they want to do, but somebody is telling them they shouldn't vote for governor if they wouldn't want an amendment to pass because that makes the votes for governor less. And if they ask about the amendment, the poll workers are not allowed to tell them."
In order for an amendment to pass, it must have at least 50 percent plus one of the total votes cast in the gubernatorial race. Contrary to previously published media reports, one does not need to vote in the gubernatorial race to have their votes toward the amendments count.
Total early voting numbers for the 2002 mid-term election was 11,681 – a number that Wilson County could hit with five more days of early voting remaining.
However, the county has more than 61,000 voters today – more than 15,000 over the number of registered voters at this time in 2002.
"It's better than I thought," Harris said, adding she "was afraid it was going to be like August. I guess I'm still kind of in shock over August."
Early voting had reached new lows during the August election, when county offices were filled as well as statewide judgeships and Democratic and Republican primaries.
"The August election with the judges used to be the big election," Harris said. "And I guess things have just changed."
Associated Press reports contributed to this story.
Staff Writer Jason Cox can be reached at 444-3952 ext. 45 or by e-mail at email@example.com.