Democratic voting machine technician Jeff Adams, left, watches as Denny Lalie of Harp Enterprises Inc. prepares to certify a Sullivan County voting machine for the upcoming presidential primaries. In the background, Sullivan County’s Gena Frye talks with GOP observer Russ Owens. David Grace photo.
BLOUNTVILLE — Voting machines to be used in Sullivan County for early voting later this month were programmed on Wednesday, Sullivan County Administrator of Elections Gena Frye said.
Sullivan County contracts for such programming with Kentucky-based Harp Enterprises Inc. That’s the company that sold Sullivan County its eSlate voting machines, which are manufactured by Hart InterCivic.
The 2008 presidential preference primaries are Feb. 5. Early voting begins Jan. 16 and continues through Jan. 31. The last day to register to vote in the primaries has passed.
Early voting locations for Sullivan County voters are the same three sites used for elections earlier this year: the county’s election offices in Blountville (beginning Jan. 16); the Kingsport Civic Auditorium (beginning Jan. 25); and the YWCA in Bristol (beginning Jan. 25).
Local election officials have attempted in recent weeks to raise public awareness of absentee voting options (if you’re over 65, you can request an absentee ballot without any further explanation — last day to apply is Jan. 29). They’ve also encouraged all voters to take advantage of early voting for the Feb. 5 primaries, when winter weather could make getting to the polls a challenge for some voters.
Election officials also decided to up the number of voting machines at each early voting location this go around due to concerns over possible delays because of a comparatively lengthy GOP primary ballot.
Voters in the Republican primary will have to scroll through several pages of ballot, and that could mean delays or lines on Election Day.
Frye said the ballot for the Democratic presidential primary will be comparatively short because it won’t include names of individual delegates.
In Tennessee, voters pick one primary or the other. You cannot vote in both primaries.
“Those who choose to vote in the Democratic primary, they’re just going to be voting for Democratic presidential candidates,” Frye said. “Those who choose to vote in the Republican primary, they will be voting on Republican presidential candidates — but they will also be voting on delegates. The Tennessee Republican party chooses to place their delegates on the ballot.”
Frye said interest in the primaries seems higher this year than four years ago, but that’s not surprising because in 2004 President George W. Bush was unopposed on the Republican ballot.
In 2004, fewer than 8,000 voters turned out, total, for the presidential primaries, Frye said.
The only county office on the Feb. 5 ballot is property assessor.
Incumbent Bobby Icenhour filed to seek re-election as the Republican Party’s nominee. He is the only candidate on the ballot, facing no challengers from within his own party and no independent or Democratic candidates.
County voters will elect a property assessor in August.
For more information visit www.sullivancountyelections.org and www.state.tn.us/sos/election/.