Tuesday, May 6, will be the last chance to vote for candidates running for county offices in the Democratic and Republican primaries.
Early voting turnout was light, according to officials at the Coffee County Election Commission.
Assistant administrator Charlotte Dunham said only 2,840 votes were turned in by the close of the early voting period Thursday, including absentee voters, out of the total 31,622 registered voters in the county.
“Early voting has increased each year,” Dunham said, “and it’s usually a little over half of the total we expect, including Tuesday’s Election-Day results.”
Administrator Vernita Davis said recently that the same 46 offices up for grabs now were also being determined in the 2010 primary, and that turnout was “only 18 percent, which was fairly low.”
Asked why she thought turnout has been so light again this year, Dunham cited several reasons, adding that turnout for primaries is generally lower than for general elections.
“I think primaries are somewhat misunderstood,” Dunham said, “or perhaps people don’t want to have to choose a particular party to cast their vote.
“In Tennessee, we don’t register by party, but in the primary, we have to choose either a Democratic or Republican ballot, and I think many people tend to want to vote for individuals, rather than parties.
“We also have a quite a few voters who say they consider themselves independents instead of either Democrats or Republicans.”
Dunham added that in many other counties, offices like those on the ballot now do not run by party or in a primary, they simply run in the general election, with all candidates on one ballot, regardless of party.
“Commissioners, clerks, road superintendents and constables, these are offices that often don’t consider themselves to be associated with a particular party anyway,” she said, adding that if Coffee County chose to do it this way, it would save the cost of an election, which she said is roughly $40,000.
Asked how the county would eliminate the primary, if it chose to do so, she said she was not sure but that it would probably have to be changed by the county commission.
Mayor David Pennington said later that he believed it might also have to be approved by the state.
He added that he had contacted the County Technical Assistance Service (CTAS) about the issue, but as of press time, had not yet received their response.
Offices up for grabs in both the primary and general elections this year include all 21 county commissioners, Circuit Court judges, Coffee County District Attorney General, public defender, Coffee County Trustee, General Sessions judges, sheriff, Circuit Court Clerk, County Clerk, Register of Deeds, Road Superintendent, all road commissioners and all constables.
A total of 67 Democrats will be whittled down to 49, while 28 Republicans will be reduced to 27 after each party’s internal competition is eliminated.
This will leave a total of 76 to compete in the August elections.
Manchester polling locations will open at 8 a.m. Tuesday and close at 7 p.m.
For more information visit www.coffeecountyelectioncommission.com or call 931-723-5103.