The early voting period for the August 2 Primary and Local General Elections ended Saturday with voter turnout continuing on a record pace across the state. The Tennessee Star will have more detailed analysis of the statewide and key county turnout figures next week once the Secretary of State posts the complete totals. However, a review of the final totals from the Williamson County Elections Administrator shows dramatic increases in voter participation from 2014 in both the Republican and Democratic Party primaries.
In Williamson County, 20,884 total votes were cast during Early Voting, representing turnout of approximately 13.9% of total registered voters. In 2014, there were 11,757 total primary votes, a turnout of 8.6%.
Of those votes, 14,861 were in the Republican primary. 5,953 were cast in the Democratic Primary. The Democratic primary total is a 400% increase over the primary votes cast in 2014. Nevertheless, GOP votes still exceeded Democrat votes by over a 2 to 1 margin.
Tennessee Star Political Editor Steve Gill says the significant increase in early votes among both Democrats and Republicans indicates that the Fall election will be more hotly contested than races in recent years. “Assuming we see the early voting numbers double on election day, which is typical, that would put us at Presidential primary level turnout and indicates a very high degree of interest in these races. With tough battles for both the Senate and Governor’s offices in November that interest is unlikely to diminish.”
“But,” Gill cautions, “the bitterness of the Governor’s race will be a challenge for Republicans to overcome. If they don’t quickly and effectively find a way to unite the losing candidates and their supporters with whoever is nominated on Thursday they risk losing the Governor’s office to the Democrats — and could make things more difficult for Marsha Blackburn in the Senate race, as well.”
By comparison, just over 40,000 total votes were cast in Williamson County in the Republican Presidential primary in March, 2016. Marco Rubio (31.4%), Donald Trump (27.4%) and Ted Cruz (25.3%) were the leaders among Williamson County voters. (Statewide, Trump won 38.9% of the primary votes, followed by Cruz (24.7%) and Rubio (21.2%).)
A little under 10,000 were cast in the 2016 Democratic Presidential primary in Williamson County, but Tennessee was not as highly contested on the Democrats side of the aisle since Hillary Clinton was already essentially the Democrat nominee by the time Super Tuesday states voted.
2014 was the last year that there were statewide primary contests. Senator Lamar Alexander (R-TN) ran for reelection against former State Representative Joe Carr and Memphis Dr. George Flinn in the GOP Primary. Alexander won with 49% of the vote, Carr received 41%. About 650,000 total votes were cast in that primary election.
Meanwhile, in the Democratic Senate primary race that featured four candidates, Knoxville attorney Gordon Ball narrowly won the nomination over Terry Adams, 36.5% to 35.6%.
For the Statewide 2018 primary election, before the Saturday early voting totals are included, the total number of early votes was 569,877, according to the Tennessee Secretary of State. https://tnsos.org/elections/ElectionData/20180802EarlyVotersDisplay.php Of those votes, 364,676 were cast in the Republican Primary, while 188,568 were in the Democratic Primary. Election Day is Thursday, August 2.
“Republicans are clearly engaged in this primary election cycle,” Gill notes, “and they will have to remain engaged into November if they want to keep the Governor’s office, the Senate seat, 7 out of 9 House seats, and supermajorities in the state house and senate.”