With early voting for Metro’s general election beginning Friday, candidates will soon shift to get-out-the-vote mode, recognizing the two-week period that runs through July 30 is just as crucial to victory as Election Day itself.
“The early voting period has become as important, if not more important, than the actual Election Day,” said Metro Councilman Eric Crafton, one of several candidates running for one of five at-large seats. “So, I plan on being at various early voting sites every day.”
Albert Tieche, Davidson County’s elections administrator, said he anticipates approximately 30 percent of the county’s 345,000 registered voters to cast ballots this year. He expects half of all voters to take advantage of the convenience of early voting, a ratio that’s emerged as the norm over time.
“We’re getting real close to voting half those people early,” Tieche said. “That’s kind of how it breaks out. Maybe we’ll have 90,000 vote and 45,000 will vote early, and 45,000 on Election Day.”
Four years ago, more than 100,000 people voted overall in Metro’s general election, with 48,303 voting early.
In that mayor’s race, then-Vice Mayor Howard Gentry and former U.S. Rep. Bob Clement actually came in first and second, respectively, when counting exclusively Election Day votes. Karl Dean narrowly came out on top, however, because he won the early vote. Dean later won the September run-off.
This year’s election ballot includes a largely uncontested mayor’s race, but a slew of competitive council district contests, as well as a spirited at-large race. There’s also a much-discussed public referendum on whether to keep the status quo at the 117-acre Tennessee Fairgrounds.
Despite lacking well-known competition, Tom Hayden, Dean’s re-election campaign spokesman, said the campaign is hosting various early voting events beginning Friday.
Dean’s challengers are Marvin Barnes, Bruce Casper and James Keeton.
Peter Westerholm, one of a handful of candidates running to represent East Nashville’s District 6 seat, said early voting is all about making sure targeted supporters get to the polls. Folks have listened to candidates’ platforms and ideas, he said. Now, it’s time for direct action.
“It very much becomes a numbers game, and to find those supporters and try to turn that into turnout,” Westerholm said. “Once early voting starts, you can determine who has come out to vote.”
Registered Davidson County voters can visit nine sites to vote early: the Metro Office Building on Second Avenue; Belle Meade United Methodist Church; Bellevue Community Center; Bordeaux Library; Edmondson Pike Library; Green Hills Library; Hermitage Library; Living Word Community Church; and Madison Library.
The early voting period runs from July 15 through July 30. Polls are not open on Sundays. Voting begins at 8 a.m. each morning. Sites close at 4:30 p.m. on most nights, but 7 p.m. on selected Tuesdays and Thursdays.