Early Voting Begins Today
Surge in voter registrations could lead to strong turnout during election.
Knox County Election Administrator Clifford Rodgers, left, talks with one of his deputies, Tammy Sandidge, yesterday as election workers get ready for the beginning of early voting.
A late surge in voter registrations -- possibly due to the Taylor Swift Effect -- signals a potentially high turnout for the general election in Knox County as early voting begins today.
Knox County voters can cast ballots at any of 10 early voting locations
Knox County Election Administrator Clifford Rodgers said people registered to vote in the waning days of the registration period at four times the rate they did for the last midterm election in 2014. “We saw a significant uptick to what we saw four years ago, Rodgers said.
Unlike the voter registration website Vote.org, Rodgers stopped short of crediting Swift for the increase in registrations processed by the Knox County Election Commission. Swift broke her longstanding silence on political matters by taking to Instagram to endorse Democrat Phil Bredesen, who’s running for the Senate seat being vacated by retiring Republican Bob Corker, and Democratic U.S. Rep. Jim Cooper of Nashville, who’s running for re-election.
Swift urged her 112 million Instagram followers to register to vote, and on the American Music Awards show two days later implored the audience to vote. Vote.org saw a jump of at least 2,144 registration applications from Tennessee in the 36 hours after Swift’s Instagram post.
Rodgers, however, said the rarity of having no incumbents in the races for governor, U.S. Senate and U.S. House of Representatives is a factor. Also, he said, people in both parties are enthusiastic about this year’s election. “Everybody’s fired up, but being fired up doesn’t do any good if you don’t vote.”
Early voting runs from today through Nov. 1 at 10 locations in Knox County. Two of the locations are new this go-around, though the county’s most popular early voting polling place remains in the same West Knoxville shopping center.
The Downtown West location, consistently the busiest during early voting, has moved a few doors down from the previous location. Voters shouldn’t find it difficult to locate, Rodgers said, because its spot in the shopping center is more prominent. “They can’t miss it,” Rodgers said of voters trekking to Downtown West. “That’s good because that’s going to be the most heavily trafficked one, as always.”
The other new location, on Merchants Drive near the Clinton Highway intersection, is the third spot this calendar year for the early voting polling place in that northern sector of the county. Rodgers said the real estate market has heated up, making it difficult to find a location for the price Rodgers is willing to pay for a few days’ use. “It’s a nightmare trying to find a developer, landlord, owner to give us something to use for free,” he said.
In addition to opening 10 polling places, Rodgers is dispatching teams of election workers to provide ballots to the residents of close to three dozen registered nursing homes and assisted living facilities in Knox County.
The early voting locations are:
-- City County Building, Small Assembly Room, 400 Main Street
-- Love Kitchen, 2418 Martin Luther King Jr. Ave.
-- Downtown West, 1645 Downtown West Blvd.
-- New Harvest Park, 4775 New Harvest Lane
-- Meridian Baptist Church, 6513 Chapman Highway
-- North/Merchants Drive, 314 Merchants Drive, Suite G
-- Farragut Town Hall, 11408 Municipal Center Drive
-- Carter Library, 9036 Asheville Highway
-- Halls Recreation Center, 6933 Recreation Lane
-- Karns Senior Center, 8042 Oak Ridge Highway
All locations except for the City County Building and the Karns Senior Center are open 10 a.m. to 6 p.m. weekdays and 11 a.m. to 5 p.m. on Saturdays. They are open later, from 10 a.m. to 7 p.m., from Oct. 29 through Nov. 1, with the exception of Oct. 31 -- they close at 5 p.m. for Halloween. All are closed on Sundays.
The City County Building hours are 10 a.m. to 6 p.m. weekdays; 11 a.m. to 2 p.m. on Saturday, Oct. 20; 8 a.m. to 5 p.m. on Saturday, Oct. 27; and 10 a.m. to 7 p.m. from Oct. 29 through Nov. 1, again with the exception of Halloween, when they close at 5 p.m. The City County Building also is closed on Sundays.
Polls at the Karns Senior Center will be open 9 a.m. to 6 p.m. weekdays, but will be closed on Saturdays and Sundays. The Karns location will be open 9 a.m. to 7 p.m. from Oct. 29 through Nov. 1, with, once again, the 5 p.m. closing time on Halloween.
According to Rodgers, election workers have worked through the registration backlog and are ready for the push to Election Day. An Election Commission worker processed the last registration for this year’s vote at 4:10 p.m. Tuesday.