In Tennessee's Big Early Voting Turnout, Democrats Appear More Motivated Than Usual | Nashville Public Radio

In Tennessee's Big Early Voting Turnout, Democrats Appear More Motivated Than Usual

Jul 30, 2018

This story has been corrected to reflect final early voting totals, which show a larger overall voter turnout than initially reported.

The final tally is in for Tennessee early voting — and turnout jumped by 11 percent compared to four years ago.

Within those numbers, Williamson County is seeing an interesting partisan change. While Republican ballots still dominate, Wiliamson’s Democratic turnout was up by thousands of voters.

At the polls, those casting ballots have several theories as to why: There are far more Democrats on the ballot this year; some voters feel candidates for statewide office finally have real chances of winning; and some wonder if population growth is also coupled with changing political leanings.

“In the past, often, there were no candidates on the Democratic side. So it’s good to see some choice there, and hopefully it’s bringing out voters,” said Robert Holmes, a retired physicist. “I think the Democrats have a very good chance of putting a couple of candidates over the top.”

Democratic turnout in Williamson County is up more than 300% compared to four years ago — from 1,303 early ballots in 2014 to 5,953 this month.

“Even though we’ve always had the impression that there are more — and there are more — Republican candidates and people in Williamson County, it is changing somewhat,” said Brentwood Democrat Gary Stewart. He and his wife Marty said they could sense being surrounded by Republicans within their friend groups and at the polls.

“People were ahead of us, behind us in line: Republican. Our neighborhood is solidly Republican,” Marty Stewart said. “They may be nice people, but I don’t trust the whole party right now.”

For local voter Cherry Walker — who goes straight Republican ticket — her explanation has to do with the influx of newcomers.

“A lot of those people, I think, are moving from primarily Democratic areas of the country,” she said.

The turnout doesn’t change the Republican stronghold on local races. Overall, Republicans still cast 71 percent of Williamson ballots during early voting.

Across Tennessee, 626,902 people voted early.

In partisan terms, Republican were up 12 percent compared to four years ago, and Democrats were up 28 percent.