Nashville early voting concluded with a big turnout Saturday, capping a strong finish to what began as a surprisingly slow start.
Partway through the two-week early period, election officials announced turnout was below expectations. At that point, turnout was down by 24% compared to 2015.
But five strong days followed, with more voters casting ballots than on the comparable days four years prior. Overall early voting turnout was down 9.77%, according to the Davidson County Election Commission.
Anecdotally at the polls, several voters told WPLN that they’d seen fewer mailers and TV ads this year, and received fewer knocks at their doors from campaign volunteers.
“I think it’s quiet compared to last year,” said Roger Schecter, of Forest Hills. “Our turnout rate in the country, in the state, and in the city is abysmal. And it’s embarrassing.”
Compared to the 2015 mayor’s race, far less money has been spent by campaigns. The most recent campaign finance disclosures show the four leading mayoral candidates recently surpassed $3 million in combined spending. In 2015, including a mayoral runoff, more than $16 million was spent.
Voter fatigue has been a persistent worry as Nashville voters have been called back to the polls for multiple special elections and runoff contests.
“There are plenty of people … that are unaware that there’s even an election happening, because they think that one just happened,” said voter Sarah Howard.
Still, a few widely held concerns are drawing some people to the polls. Like others, voter Nancy Dorman said leaders need to address affordability.
“It’s very expensive. It’s becoming only more expensive to live in Davidson County and to work in Nashville,” she said. “Even if you have a good job, you can’t afford to pay the rent because it’s just too expensive.”
At the Southeast Branch Library, retired nonprofit leader Brenda North said her top concern is that not all neighborhoods are receiving equitable investment. But she noted that several candidates are making neighborhood-centric promises.
“I don’t know if it’s just campaign talk, and we’ll see what happens when the person is actually elected,” she said. “Sometimes I think politicians know what to say to get the vote, but the proof is in what they actually do.”
Election Day is Thursday. Polls are open from 7 a.m. to 7 p.m. For more information, visit Nashville.gov/vote.