HUNTSVILLE — Unsurprisingly, perhaps, early voting for Tennessee’s presidential primary started not with a bang but with a whimper in Scott County on Wednesday, February 12.
According to figures made available by Scott County Administrator of Elections Gabe Krahn, only 17 voters turned out at the early voting locations in Oneida and Huntsville on Wednesday, which was the first day of the two-week early voting period across the state.
Additionally, 28 paper ballots and by-mail ballots had been cast in the days leading up to the start of early voting, meaning a grand total of 45 Scott Countians have cast their presidential preference ballots ahead of the March 3 primary. Among the 28 ballots received prior to Wednesday were 14 ballots cast by nursing home residents.
The low turnout on the opening day of early voting was hardly surprising. Presidential primaries are traditionally among the least-utilized elections among registered voters, and there is no suspense surrounding the Republican primary in a county that is overwhelmingly Republican.
President Donald J. Trump, who is seeking a second term after being acquitted by the U.S. Senate in his impeachment trial last week, received 85 percent of the popular vote in Scott County in November 2016, when he defeated Hillary Clinton in the general election.
Trump does have company on the ballot for the Republican primary, but it is token opposition. Conservative radio host Joe Walsh — a former one-term congressman from Illinois — is on the ballot, but has already dropped out of the race; he formally withdrew on February 7, after a predictably poor showing in the Iowa caucus. Also on the Republican ballot is Bill Weld, a 74-year-old former governor of Massachusetts. Weld has polled surprisingly well in the early going of the primary campaign, though he has virtually no chance of unseating Trump and capturing the GOP nomination. Weld, who was a running mate to Libertarian candidate Gary Johnson in the 2016 presidential election, picked up a delegate in the Iowa caucus earlier this month, in the process becoming the first Republican since Pat Buchanan to win a delegate while running against an incumbent president. He also captured nearly 10 percent of the vote in the New Hampshire Republican primary on February 11.
Voters who head to the polls in Tennessee will find a host of candidates seeking the Democratic nomination for president, though some have already formally withdrawn from the race. Among those who will appear on the ballot are Michael Bennet, Joe Biden, Michael Bloomberg, Cory Booker, Pete Buttigieg, Julian Castro, John Delaney, Tulsi Gabbard, Amy Klobuchar, Deval Patrick, Bernie Sanders, Tom Steyer, Elizabeth Warren, Marianne Williamson and Andrew Yang.
Sanders is the clear front-runner among the Democratic field, after winning the New Hampshire primary on February 11. Biden, long considered the front-runner before his campaign began to implode after the start of the new year, performed even more poorly than expected in New Hampshire.
Despite Sanders’ momentum, he currently trails Buttigieg in the early delegate count, 22-21. Sanders has a commanding lead in the betting odds, at 44 percent. Second is former New York mayor Michael Bloomberg, at 27 percent. Buttigieg is third at 15 percent, while Biden — who was the betting favorite just a month ago, has slipped to just 9 percent as a distant fourth. Elizabeth Warren, long considered a favorite in the race, has fallen completely off the radar.
Early voting will continue each weekday and Saturday through February 25, with the exception of February 17, which is Presidents Day. Voting hours are 10 a.m. to 2 p.m. on Mondays, Tuesdays, Wednesdays and Thursdays, 10 a.m. to 6 p.m. on Fridays, and 9 a.m. to noon on Saturdays. The lone exception is on Tuesday, February 25, when early voting locations will be open from 10 a.m. to 6 p.m.
Early voters in Scott County can cast ballots at either the Scott County Office Building in Huntsville or the Oneida Municipal Services Building.