Early voting ends Thursday, turnout numbers remain steady

Published 4:06 pm Monday, April 23, 2018

As early voting begins to wind down, voter turnout remains steady compared to 2014 numbers.

When the polls closed on Saturday, a total of 2,674 county residents had cast their ballots during early voting. That number is just slightly down from 2014, when by that point in early voting a total of 2,695 residents had voted.

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Those numbers include both the individuals who voted in person during early voting as well as the nursing home votes and absentee ballots that have been received at the Carter County Election Commission.

April 24 marks the last day residents can request an absentee ballot for the May 1 Primary Election. Absentee ballots must be received back at the Election Commission on or before May 1 to be eligible to be counted.

“By law, the ballots must be sent and received through the mail,” Harris said.

This election cycle has been marked by an increase in complaints by voters regarding campaign conduct, according to Harris.

“In the 20 years I’ve been here this is the worst I’ve seen it,” Harris said. “This has been the nastiest campaign season.”

Harris said several voters have complained to her, her staff, and election officials about “aggressive campaigning” by candidates and campaign volunteers. A few filed formal complaints while many just wanted to make officials aware of the conduct.

Many of the reports of aggressive campaigning have allegedly occurred outside of the 100-foot boundary around the polling place. Harris said the Election Commission has no authority regarding candidates or campaign volunteers campaigning if they are outside of the 100-foot boundary. Voters who wish to lodge complaints about candidate or campaign volunteer conduct outside of the boundary can contact the District Attorney General’s Office, Harris said.

The boundary rule around polling places used to extend 300 feet, but in recent years the Tennessee Legislature shortened the distance to 100 feet.

Because of the number of complaints received from voters, and issues related to the boundary and aggressive campaigning, Harris said she is going to speak to the Carter County Election Commission and ask them to contact state officials to reinstate the boundary line at 300 feet.

“I think that would help alleviate a lot of these issues,” Harris said.

Election Commission staff have also received complaints alleging that some candidates provided a false address on their candidate paperwork while others are alleged to be convicted felons. Harris said her office has investigated all of those complaints they have received and the individuals listed on the Primary Election ballot all met the qualifications for the office they are seeking including residency and voter status.

Early voting will continue through 4 p.m. on Thursday, April 26. The polls will be open 9 a.m. until 4 p.m. through that date.