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Do you care who runs Sullivan County for the next four years?

J. H. Osborne • Apr 24, 2018 at 10:30 PM

BLOUNTVILLE — Surprisingly, considering the potentially historic turnover rate across Sullivan County government, voter turnout so far is down significantly compared to the same election cycle four years ago. There are nearly 97,000 registered voters in Sullivan County. As of Friday, the ninth day of early voting for upcoming party primaries — during which some key county races will be decided — less than 3,000 of them had cast ballots.

More county offices are “open” on this year’s ballot than at any time in recent memory, almost any longtime watcher of county politics will tell you. And several key races will be decided in the upcoming party primaries.

Yet, according to public information provided by the Sullivan County Election Commission, early voting turnout is down compared to the same election in 2014. The biggest thing on the ballot that time around: the winner-take-all Republican Party primary battle between then-incumbent County Mayor Steve Godsey and his predecessor — and successor — current County Mayor Richard Venable.

Early voting for the party primaries began in Blountville on April 11 and expanded to the Kingsport Civic Auditorium and National Guard in Bristol on April 19. Early voting continues at all three locations, 9 a.m. to 4 p.m., through Thursday, April 26. Polls are not open on Sundays. So Friday was the ninth day of early voting and the second during which the city locations were open.

According to the Election Commission:

• Ballots cast during the first six days of early voting totaled 1,195 (1,171 Repubican and 24 Democratic). That’s a 36 percent decrease compared to 2014, when the first six days brought out 1,626 Republicans and 96 Democrats.

• On day seven, 177 voters cast early ballots (169 Republican and eight Democratic).

• On day eight, early voting locations opened in Kingsport and Bristol — and 754 voters cast early ballots (709 Republican and 45 Democratic). Kingsport accounted for most of the traffic, with 454 ballots cast, while 123 ballots were cast in Bristol and 179 were cast in Blountville.

• On day nine (Friday), 823 voters cast early ballots (786 Republican and 37 Democratic). Kingsport again accounted for the most early voters, with 433 ballots cast, while 167 ballots were cast in Bristol and 223 were cast in Blountville.

During early voting, registered voters may cast an in-person early ballot at any of the three locations.

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