Early voting got off to a vigorous start this past week, far surpassing the last presidential preference primary four years ago as people flocked to the polls in Coffee County to not only select their presidential candidate but also elect a new General Session Judge.
According to Election Administrator Andy Farrar, the first four days of the 2016 March primary saw a total of 563 early voters while the first four days of the 2020 March primary saw 890 early voters.
“For the first four days of early voting in 2016 there were 418 Republican voters and in 2020 voting that has increased by 262 voters to 680 total. For the same time period of early voting for The Democratic Primary in 2016 there were 145 Democratic voters and in 2020 it has increased by 65 voters to 210,” said Farrar.
According to the Tennessee Secretary of State's website, Friday Feb. 14 had the highest turnout thus far with the total of 268 early voters, with 203 Republican voters and 65 Democratic voters. Opening day on Wednesday Feb. 12 had a turnout of 260 early voters with 199 voting Republican and 61 voting Democrat.
When asked about why there has been a higher turnout in the first few days, Farrar said it was a combination of the news coverage of the presidential election and the race for the vacant judge’s seat.
“I feel that the attention the local and national news organizations have given to this election has increased voter turnout. Another factor for the increase would have to be the county-wide race for General Sessions Judge -Part 1 unexpired term,” said Farrar.
The federal primary focuses on the presidential candidate preference for both Republican and Democratic political parties. The Republican primary also has a five page list, with two extra pages for write-ins, of delegates to elect for the Republican National Convention in August.
The primary will also have a focus on a local scale for a few vacancies to be filled as well as other local offices. The offices that will be on the primary ballot are General Sessions Judge – Part 1, District Eight County Commissioner, Assessor of Property and Road Commissioner Seat Four.
The main office vacancy on the ballot will be the seat for General Sessions Judge – Part 1. The seat became open after Judge Tim Brock passed away suddenly in November while attending a judicial conference in Reno, Nevada.
Due to the unique situation of the seat’s vacancy, in the January full commission meeting, a resolution was passed stating that whichever candidate wins the March primary will become the interim judge before being sworn in on Sept. 1.
This resolution was passed due the candidates, Jason Huskey, Stacy Lynch, Greg Perry and Jess Stockwell, are all qualified to run under the Republican Party with no candidates running in the Democratic Primary or seeking the office as an independent candidate. This meant whoever won the primary would run unopposed in the general election in August. To vote for judge, voters will have to choose to vote in the Republican Primary. There were no write-in candidates who qualified for Republican or Democratic party.
The other vacancy on the ballot is the commissioner seat for District 8. Since the resignation of former commissioner Emily Howes in July 2019, the county has failed to vote in either Tim Brown or Dr. Jeff Keele as interim commissioner in three commission meetings in six months.
During the January commission meeting, it was noted that the District 8 seat was similar to the judge’s seat where Brown and Keele both qualified to run under the Republican Party with no candidates running in opposing parties, so whoever won the primary would run unopposed in the general election. After discussion, it was decided to amend and pass the resolution for the judge’s seat to include whoever won the primary for the District 8 commissioner seat would take office and serve in an interim role until their official swearing on Sept. 1.
Other seats include Assessor of Property where Beverly Robertson will be running as the incumbent. She is running unopposed and representing the Republican Party. Robertson won the election for Assessor of Property back in 2016.
There are two locations for early voting for Tullahoma and Manchester. Tullahoma residents can cast their ballots at C.D. Stamps Community Center at 810 S. Jackson St. from 9 a.m. to 4:30 p.m., Monday through Friday and 9 a.m. to noon on Saturdays.
Manchester residents can cast their ballots be at the Coffee County Administrative Plaza in the Election Commission office at 1329 McArthur St. from 8 a.m. to 4:30 p.m. Monday through Friday and 8:30 a.m. to noon on Saturdays.
Last day of early voting for the primary is Feb. 25. Election Day is March 3 for anyone who didn’t vote during early voting. All voters must have a valid photo ID to cast their vote.
Kyle Murphy may be reached at email@example.com.