Ready to vote: Early voting opens year of elections

For the staff in the Blount County Election Commission office, the work of the 2008 elections started long before the first early vote was cast on Jan. 16.

Libby Breeding, administrator of elections, said the volume of voter registrations her staff of three full-time employees have processed has been phenomenal. “I looked a few minutes ago and (deputy administrator) Dawn Lee had worked on more than 100 today,” Breeding said. “We have to have all those in by the time early voting begins.”

Breeding said the challenge right now is the amount of work preparing for the election and getting polling books ready. “The biggest thing is the volume of the work load we have. There are three workers in the election office. Even during non-election years, the work is steady,” Breeding said.

Hourly workers are hired during elections. On election nights, the number of workers swells to almost 300 at the precincts. “It’s just a large volume of people you’ve got to deal with and a large volume of work that has to be processed,” said Breeding. “The big thing is the amount of paperwork and things that need to get done.”

The last day to register in time for the Feb. 5 primary was Jan. 7. Registrations mailed in had to have been postmarked Jan. 7. Any registrations mailed in after Jan. 7 were to be held until after the Feb. 5 election and processed for the August election, Breeding said.

“If someone goes to early vote and they’re not in the system, they can’t vote, but if we have their application and it’s not in the system, that’s our mistake. We will have all those application processed,” she said.

Beginning this year, there will be a second early voting location at Everett Recreation Center. The center is a voting precinct on election day and becomes the county’s second location for early voting.

“They will be open Monday through Friday, 10 a.m. to 6 p.m. That will hopefully get people after work so they can stop by and vote,” Breeding said. “We’ve always had early voting in the office here from 8 a.m. to 4 p.m. Mondays through Fridays. On Saturdays, we’ll be open here from 8 a.m. to 2 p.m. That’s a busy time for Everett because of the ball games, and we didn’t want to interfere. It’s easy to get in and out of here on Saturdays.”

Breeding said parking at the courthouse during the week is difficult. “Jerry Cunningham has been gracious enough to give one row of parking and Maryville First Baptist Church said we can park over there,” she said.

There are very few local races in the Feb. 5 primary election. In the Democratic primary, Circuit Court Judge Mike Meares is running for the Circuit Court Division II seat he currently holds. In the Republican primary, Mike Morton is running for re-election as property assessor and General Sessions Judge David Duggan is running for Circuit Court Division II, Breeding said. All are unopposed in the primaries.

In the City of Rockford, Carl Koela III is running for commission.

Breeding said that while the Democratic party will hold a caucus to determine the delegates they will send to the presidential convention, Republicans will determine their delegates for their convention during the primary vote. Because of the large number of potential delegates that voters in the Republican primary will have to choose from, Breeding said voters should prepare ahead of time. “They really need to look at the sample ballot and see who they want to vote for; otherwise it will take a tremendous amount of time if they haven’t looked it,” she said.

Breeding said there are 52 precincts in 31 different locations throughout the county. Several locations, such as at Beech Grove Baptist or Alcoa High School, have two or three precincts, she said.

Breeding said voters should have a valid ID or their voter registration card handy when they’re in line at the polls. “The big thing is to have an ID available as soon as they get to the polls. Have that out and ready,” she said.

Presidential Preference and County Primary

Date: Feb. 5

Early Voting: Jan. 16-31

On the ballot: Republican and Democratic candidates for U.S. president, County primary for Circuit Court Judge, Property Assessor

State Primary and County General

Date: Aug. 7

Early Voting: July 18-Aug. 2

On the ballot: Republican and Democratic candidates for Tennessee State Senate (1 seat) and State House of Representatives (2 seats); Republican and Democratic candidates for U.S. Senate (1 seat) and U.S. House of Representatives (1 seat); General election for County Property Assessor and Circuit Court Judge

Last day to register to vote in Aug. 7 election is July 8.

State General Election

Date: Nov. 4

Early Voting: Oct. 15-30

On the ballot: General election for U.S. President and Vice President, U.S. Senate, U.S. House of Representatives; Tennessee State Senate and House of Representatives

Last day to register to vote in the Nov. 4 election is Oct. 6.

© 2008 All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten or redistributed.

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