Lines wrapped around buildings as Tennesseans showed up to the polls in record-breaking numbers during the first few days of early voting.
In Blount County alone, 13,790 people cast their ballots from Wednesday, Oct. 14. to Friday, Oct. 16, according to a voter turnout comparison published by the secretary of state’s office. That number includes absentee ballots received on those days.
The comparison showed that Blount had Tennessee’s ninth highest number of voters in the first three days of early voting.
This is a 65.96% increase from the same period in the 2016 presidential election. That year, 8,309 people early voted in the first three days.
In 2012, only 6,517 people voted on or had their absentee ballots received within that time. That puts the first three days of 2020 early voting at a 122% increase from those days in 2012.
Blount County Administrator of Elections Susan Knopf said in an email to The Daily Times that 940 more ballots had been cast or received by 5 p.m. Saturday, bringing the total number of voters to 14,730 — a 60% increase from the first four days in 2016.
The early voting location at Foothills Mall, 101 Foothills Mall Drive in Maryville, is open Saturdays until 6 p.m.
The local voting numbers are available https://blounttn.org/480/Early-Voting-Totals where the election commission typically updates them every day. However, the numbers for the 2020 presidential election weren’t updated until Saturday, Oct. 17 because the commission has been overwhelmed, an election commission worker told The Daily Times.
“We have never been so busy,” Knopf said. “Moving early voting to Foothills Mall has benefited the voters with ample parking and indoor space for social distancing and long lines.”
Such a stark increase in early voting and reception of absentee ballots is happening statewide — 273,325 Tennesseans cast their ballots by voting early or by-mail on the first day of early voting, Oct. 14 — a 91% increase from 2016’s first day and a 120% from 2012, Tennessee Secretary of State Tre Hargett announced Thursday.
“I’m excited that Tennesseans are engaged and are making their voices heard at the polls,” Hargett said in a press release. “We are on pace to break our previous early voting turnout record, which was set in 2016.”
Hargett also reported Friday that by the close of polls on Thursday Oct. 15, one out of 10 registered Tennessee voters had cast their ballots.
By the end of day three, 625,389 Tennesseans had voted — a 54% increase from 2016 and an 89% increase from 2012.
That’s a difference of 220,359 from 2020 to 2016 and 293,940 from 2020 to 2012, the secretary of state voter comparison shows.
More than 52,000 Blount Countians voted in the 2016 presidential election — 33,815, or 64.8%, voted early or by mail.
If the trend among Blount voters continues at its current rate, the county could reach 33,819 by Friday, Oct. 23, just nine days into early voting.
Just more than 91,500 Blount Countians are registered to vote, Knopf said.
Many of these voters are heading to the polls early to avoid long Election Day lines but still are having to wait to vote.
Twana Lytle cast her ballot at the Blount County Public Library on Friday, Oct. 16.
“I think the benefit (of early voting) is that the lines usually are shorter, but this year is totally different,” she said, “But I just wanted to go ahead and do it and make sure I got it done.
Lytle said she usually votes early at the library, but has never had to wait in a line as long as the one on Friday.
“It’s a different kind of year,” she said.