The Early VoteThe Jefferson County Standard Banner reported in yesterday's paper that the early voting totals for Jefferson County were at an all-time high. About 10,000 people have cast their votes early, according to the paper (Of course, I can't prove to you that the Standard Banner said this unless you actually saw that it was the top story above the fold yesterday, because the paper's website is absolutely horrible). If you know much about the voting rolls in Jefferson County, you know that is a sizable chunk of the county's registered voters-about a third of them.
What makes this such an interesting story is the fact that early voting totals are never that high in Jefferson County because normally, if you don't live in Dandridge you have to go all the way to the county seat to vote early. Unless you happen to be over that way on some other business, it is usually much easier to vote in your precinct on Election Day itself. This year the Election Commission wisened up and opened early voting stations in Jefferson City, New Market, and one in White Pine-actually just outside of town-at the county EMS station. There is little question that the decision to expand early voting locations contributed to the increased early turnout.
However, the numbers also seem to be telling us that it wasn't just the new places that one could go to vote that have caused the spike in early voters here. On Wednesday, I called the Election Commission just to insure that my financial submissions were in order after receiving the State disclosure notice that was sent to me at a waste of taxpayer dollars, since the same notice informed me what I already knew-that since I had not spent $1000 on my campaign, I did not need to file a disclosure. However, there are forms to file nonetheless, and the reception of that disclosure form in the mail made me want to double check that the appropriate papers were still on file. In making that call I was put on hold three times, and when I was finally helped, the person on the other end of the line was Assistant Administrator of Elections Sharon Breeder (who knows me). Sharon apologized for the wait on the phone, and pointed out in passing that the reason for it was the never-ending stream of people coming to the Election Commission to vote. According to Sharon, as of Wednesday 6,200 people had voted at the Jefferson County Election Commission main office. Those totals are utterly unheard of in any election here, and also means that a lot of people went to the effort to go to Dandridge and vote. Dandridge-area merchants are thankful for the numbers, I am sure.
I experienced no line when I voted early in White Pine, but I'm told that there have been lines in Dandridge, notable because in terms of population, Dandridge only has about 700 more people than White Pine. In future, perhaps the county will open the expanded early voting stations again, and will publicise them far better than was done this time around.
In this most Republican of counties, one has to believe that these numbers are good news for John McCain. Further, perhaps Rob Huddleston has a point: John McCain looks more enthusiastic than he has in many months. Candidates who believe they are in for a whipping don't act in the way that Senator McCain is acting, and those of us who remember the Dole campaign know that all too well.
It is of great interest to me, of course, to rack my brain over the question of how the early vote turnout will impact my race for White Pine City Council. There is no way to know this for certain until Election Night, but I am compelled to think that such high early voting numbers are good news for my campaign. I beat the other candidates to the punch and got signs up at various places around town, and made sure that there was a sign at the EMS station even when I could not be there. It should be noted here that this could not have been accomplished in the timely manner that it was without the studious help of my friend and White Pine firefighter Steve McGill, who has shown a great zeal for this effort.
Early voting is over now, and we have one last campaign swing this weekend and a marathon on Tuesday...and then we'll know the result.