Voter turnout in Sullivan County 'phenomenal'

J. H. Osborne • Feb 6, 2008 at 12:00 AM

Final unoffical local, state returns


BLOUNTVILLE — One word summed up voter turnout Tuesday in Sullivan County.


According to unofficial results released by the Sullivan County Election Commission within two hours of close of polls, more than 24,000 voters cast ballots for Tuesday’s party primaries — roughly three times voter turnout for the last such elections in 2004 and 2000, and well above the 13,000 turnout for party presidential primaries in 1996.

That figure includes early and absentee ballots.

“All indications from talking to workers at each precinct is that we’ve had a phenomenal turnout,” Sullivan County Administrator of Elections Gena Frye said as polls began to close across the county Tuesday evening.

Two problems were reported during voting Tuesday, Frye said:

•An electrical outage at Central Heights Elementary School led election officials to call for technical support, but the power came back on as that help arrived. Voting wasn’t interrupted because the voting machines operated on backup power.

•A voting machine at Anderson Elementary School in Bristol went down a couple of hours after the polls opened. Some paper ballots were used so voting could continue and the votes already cast on that machine could be retrieved.

Polling places were officially open from 8 a.m. to 8 p.m. countywide. But all that happens at 8 p.m. is that the line to vote is cut off — those already in line are allowed to complete the process.

And a few voters were in line at most county precincts at 8 p.m. Tuesday, Frye said, so results didn’t begin to come in immediately.

But by 9:45 p.m., give or take a few minutes, results — unofficial until certified at a later date — were available from all 29 precincts, including early voting and absentee ballots returned to date.

Absentee ballots are usually due in the election office no later than Election Day. But this year, several Tennessee counties failed to mail those ballots out in time to some overseas and military voters. A federal order ruled counties statewide must extend the deadline for receipt of those ballots until Feb. 15 — but they must be postmarked no later than Tuesday’s date.

With that extension, Frye said the Sullivan County Election Commission won’t certify results from Tuesdays primaries until Feb. 19 at the earliest.

According to the unofficial results released Tuesday:

•In the Democratic presidential preference primary, Hillary Clinton carried Sullivan County with 65.5 percent of the vote, Barack Obama garnered 27 percent of the vote, and John Edwards — who withdrew from the race prior to Election Day — received 6.33 percent. All other candidates on the Democratic ballot each received less than 1 percent of the vote.

•Those three candidates ranked in the same respective order among early voters — with some shift in percentage points: Clinton, 62.8 percent; Obama, 22.33 percent; and Edwards, about 13.9 percent.

•In the Republican presidential preference primary, Mike Huckabee carried Sullivan County with about 36.9 percent of the vote, John McCain garnered 31.4 percent of the vote, and Mitt Romney received 23.8 percent. Other candidates on the Republican ballot with 1 percent or more of the vote — Ron Paul, 4.15 percent; Fred Thompson, 2.05 percent; and Rudy Giuliani, 1 percent. Both Thompson and Giuliani withdrew from the race prior to Election Day.

•Among early voters, McCain had held an edge over Huckabee — about 37.55 percent, to about 25.5 percent, with Romney at about 24.5 percent. Other candidates on the Republican ballot with 1 percent or more of the early vote: Thompson 5.12 percent; Paul, 4.27 percent; and Giuliani, 2.22 percent.

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