Early voting numbers up in Hamblen County

Through the first four days of early voting in the Nov. 3 presidential election, the number of votes banked thus far is up 32% higher compared to the first four days in the 2016 presidential election, but the sharp increase does not tell the complete story, according to Jeff Gardner, Hamblen County administrator of election.

In Hamblen County through Saturday, 5,024 votes are on the books. Four years ago over the same time period, the number was 3,898, according to Gardner.

What skews the early vote totals, Gardner says, is that this year’s total includes 1,004 absentee ballots that had already arrived at the election commission office by Oct. 17, the first day of early voting. Take away the absentee ballots, and the difference drops to 222 votes, which represents just a 5.8% increase over 2016.

Gardner says approximately 1,500 Hamblen County residents have requested absentee ballots, which is a three-fold increase over 2016. In order for requests for absentee ballots to be honored, they must be in the election commission office – not postmarked – by Oct. 27.

One trend that is entirely unchanged involves Hamblen County voting demographics. Thus far, 86 of early voters in Hamblen County are over 40 years old. Those aged 18 to 21 represent 3% percent of the early turnout, according to Gardner.

The Hamblen County Election Commission is strongly encouraging in-person voters to wear cloth masks to help prevent the spread of COVID-19. Gardner says that he can “count on one hand” the people who did not wear masks while voting.

All early voting in Hamblen County occurs at the election commission office in the Hamblen County Courthouse. The last day to cast an early ballot is Thursday Oct. 29.