If only early voting didn’t exist.
That could be what Metro Councilman Sam Coleman is thinking after he lost last week to fellow Councilman Jim Gotto in the District 60 state House race.
Coleman, the Democrat, bested the Republican Gotto by 204 votes when tabbing voting that occurred on Nov. 2. But when figuring in voter participation between Oct. 13 and Oct. 28 — the state’s two-week window of early voting — Coleman lost 8,793 to 8,321. That’s not to say Gotto’s supporters wouldn’t have voted on Election Day if early voting weren’t an option.
Nonetheless, the pattern is historic: Democrats often outperform Republicans on Election Day thanks to an aggressive last-minute get-out-the-vote campaign, especially in the African-American community, a Democratic stronghold. Republicans, meanwhile, perform well during early voting.
Look at the District 51 state House race. When early voting figures were released at 7 p.m., Democratic state Rep. Mike Turner trailed businessman Charles Williamson by 178 votes. But as the night went on, Turner gradually broke into Williamson’s lead as numbers from voting locations on Election Day came in. Eventually, Turner won by a 7,990-7,267-vote margin.
Early voting came to Tennessee in 1994. Republicans opposed the measure back then, assuming it would benefit Democrats.
“Republicans raised Cain,” Davidson County Elections Administrator Ray Barrett recalled. “ ‘We’ll never win an election. We’ll never get the people to go do this. Nobody will vote but Democrats.’ Now the Republicans love it.”
In all, 156,802 Davidson Countians voted this election cycle, which accounts for 44 percent of registered voters in the county. The figure is only slightly below the 178,022 voters who took part in the 2006 election, which featured the high-profile U.S. Senate race between former Chattanooga Mayor Bob Corker and former U.S. Rep. Harold Ford Jr.
“That’s pretty good for a midterm,” Barrett said, referring to last week’s election.
Voting on Election Day last week outpaced early voting, with approximately 85,000 Nashvillians voting on Nov. 2 compared with 70,469 during the two weeks of early voting.