Early Voting Kickoff

Early Voting Kickoff

City voters in five of six Council districts can cast ballots from today through Aug. 26 for the Aug. 31 primary.

by scott barker • August 11, 2021

Early voting in this year’s Knoxville City Council primary election begins at 10 a.m. today at five locations across the city.

In the primary, voters will choose the general election candidates in Districts 1, 2, 3, 4 and 6.

Districts 1, 2, 3, 4 and 6 will be contested, while the 5th District seat is not included in this election cycle. (A map of the districts can be found here.)

Turnout in this cycle, which doesn’t include a mayoral election, is typically light, especially in a year when incumbents are running for reelection. Every seat has an incumbent this year, but every one of them has at least one challenger and all offer voters clear choices among the candidates.

Chris Davis, administrator of elections for Knox County, said he couldn’t guess at the size of the turnout but has seen no evidence of increased participation from new voter registrations, absentee ballot requests or other indicators.

“I always think there’s going to be a bigger turnout than there is,” he said. “I am loath to make a prediction.”

In the District 1 race, incumbent Tommy Smith is running against David Hayes and Elizabeth Murphy. The 1st District consists of South Knoxville and Fort Sanders.

Incumbent Andrew Roberto and Kim Smith are running in the District 2 contest. The 2nd District consists of most of West Knoxville on either side of Kingston Pike.

The 3rd District race features incumbent Seema Singh and challenger Nick Ciparro. Western Avenue bisects the Northwest Knoxville district.

Incumbent Lauren Rider and challengers Jim Klonaris and Jen McMahon are on the ballot in the 4th District, which stretches north of downtown and east of Broadway to Fountain City, and east to Holston Hills.

District 6 voters will choose from among incumbent Gwen McKenzie and challengers Deidra Harper and Garrett Holt. The district runs from East Knoxville through downtown and Mechanicsville to Pond Gap.

The candidates have appeared in forums — with varying degrees of participation — and at community group meetings throughout the city. (See Compass’ forum coverage here and here.)

Early voting locations are:

  • City County Building, 400 Main Street.
  • Downtown West, 1645 Downtown West Blvd., Unit 40.
  • Eternal Life Harvest Center at Five Points, 2410 Martin Luther King Jr. Ave.
  • New Harvest Park, 4775 New Harvest Lane.
  • Meridian Baptist Church, 6513 Chapman Highway.

The Eternal Life Harvest Center at Five Points location is new, replacing the longtime East Knoxville early voting spot at the nearby Love Kitchen.

Early voting runs through Aug. 26, and absentee ballots are available through Aug. 24. Generally, the polls will be open 10 a.m.-6 p.m. Monday through Friday and 11 a.m.-5 p.m. Saturday. Voting locations are closed on Sundays. On the last three days of early voting, polls will be open longer — 10 a.m.-7 p.m.

The City County Building and Meridian Baptist Church locations have different hours on some days, however. The Knox County Election Commission has the complete daily schedule here and general information about this year’s election here.

Davis said there will be no COVID-19 pandemic protocols in place for voters at the early voting locations, though poll workers have the option to wear protective gear.

“We recommend masks, but we can’t require masks of our voters,” he said.

In city primaries, registered voters can only vote for candidates in the district where they reside. There will be only one race on each ballot, and because there is not a 5th District contest, voters in that North Knoxville district can’t vote in the primary. 

The top two finishers in each district will move on to the Nov. 2 general election. In the general election, voters can vote for candidates in all district races, regardless of where in the city they live. Voters in the 5th District will be able to vote in the general election.