VOL. 123 | NO. 23 | Monday, February 4, 2008
Tennessee Super Tuesday Voting Could Reach 1 Million
By KRISTIN M. HALL | Associated Press Writer
NASHVILLE (AP) - Elections officials say turnout for Tennessee's presidential primary could reach a record of one million voters by Super Tuesday.
Final numbers of early voting showed more than 320,000 Tennesseans voted early, more than tripling early turnout in the last two presidential primaries held later in the campaign calendar.
State Election Coordinator Brook Thompson said this year could break the record of 830,000 set when Al Gore ran for the Democratic presidential primary in 1988.
"I think if everything breaks just right, we could approach a million," Thompson said.
Thompson said turnout is likely up statewide because the race is still contested for both parties, unlike previous years when Tennessee voted later in the year. Local races and referendums in some counties also contributed to a larger than normal turnout, election officials said.
Last year the General Assembly approved moving up Tennessee's primary from Feb. 12 to join 23 other states voting on Super Tuesday.
Typically, about 480,000 people vote on primary election day, Thompson said, but those numbers don't come close to voting totals during a general election. There are about 3.3 million active registered voters in the state. In the November 2004 general election, 2.456 million voted.
"There's a lot of interest in this, but it's nothing like a general election," Thompson said.
Provisional ballots will be tallied up after the Feb. 5 election, and it usually takes counties one or two days to do that, Thompson said.
Absentee ballots are sometimes included in the early voting tallies from counties, but overall absentee votes will be included in election night totals on Feb. 5.
The deadline for military ballots was extended for Tennessee until Feb. 15. Those will be tallied up to be included in the certified election numbers. Thompson says he is expecting a few hundred military ballots this year.
Interest in local races has also boosted turnout in some areas, like Knox and Madison counties.
Early voting in Knox County had tripled the turnout in 2000 and 2004 - some 36,717 voters had cast ballots when polls closed Thursday. It is the first election since the Tennessee Supreme Court upheld term limits putting 12 county politicians out of office and their replacement appointees were ousted for violating the state's Open Meetings Act.
"Reinforcing the importance of the (presidential) primary is the fact the recent carnival of confusion, controversy and Republican factional feuding in Knox County government has put some local offices into play for Democrats that traditionally are beyond their reach," Michael Fitzgerald, a University of Tennessee political scientist, told The Knoxville News Sentinel.
Voters in Madison County also voted on two Republican candidates for county mayor and voters in Lincoln County were voting on metropolitan consolidation referendum.
A referendum for a $50 wheel-tax opposed by a local citizen's group was pushing a lot of voters in Washington County to the polls, said Connie Sinks, county elections administrator. More than 7,400 early voters turned out, compared to about 2,500 in 2004, she said.
"We had long lines at early voting, about 20-25 minute waits," Sinks said Friday. "This is a real indication that it will be a larger turnout for election day."
Associated Press writers Duncan Mansfield in Knoxville and Lucas L. Johnson II in Nashville contributed to this report.
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