Interest perked in May when Bradley County Republicans and Democrats selected nominees from within their own primaries. Some three months later, several head-to-head clashes are taking the spotlight in local contests while many — because of a lack of Democratic candidates — are uncontested.
But bringing even more excitement to the political arena is the addition of state primaries that include some familiar offices like governor, U.S. Senate, U.S. House of Representatives, Tennessee Legislature seats in Districts 22 and 24 of the state House and District 9 of the state Senate, and of course state executive committeemen and committeewomen for both the Dems and GOP partisans.
Too, the state primary ballot includes a flurry of chances to vote for or against several judge retentions.
For the record, the official — or conventional — Election Day is Thursday, Aug. 7. Thousands of Bradley County voters still prefer visiting their polling places on this day to mark their ballots.
But thousands more like the concept of early voting. Those who vote early prefer the convenience of selecting the day of the week, and the time of day, that they will visit the polls.
In the May elections, 5,350 cast ballots on Election Day in Bradley County; another 7,892 voted early or via the absentee process.
Early voting for these August elections began Friday and will continue through Saturday, Aug. 2. Three voting satellite sites are again being used for the convenience of early voters: the Bradley County Election Commission Office in the Courthouse Annex, the Bradley Square Mall (aka the North Satellite) in Suite 400 which is the old Regis Hair Salon between JCPenney and the eBay store, and the BI-LO Shopping Center (the South Satellite) on McGrady Drive and APD-40. In the BI-LO parking lot, voters will find the familiar trailer that is again being used as the mobile voting site.
Hours for early voting at the three sites are 9 a.m. to 6 p.m. Monday through Friday, and 9 a.m. to 4 p.m. on Saturday. Election Day (Aug. 7) hours will be 8 a.m. to 8 p.m.
When early voting came along several years ago, it should have eliminated the excuse by some nonvoters who claimed they didn’t have time to get to their respective polling places on Election Day. Work demands, limited lunch breaks and time-killing traffic congestion were all cited as reasons they couldn’t get to their respective polls. The lack of available time, especially in some jobs, is a legitimate stumbling block to visiting polls on any single, specific day.
But early voting changed — or at least, it should have changed — all that. Yet, apparently it didn’t.
In the May elections including early and Election Day voting, a paltry 20 percent (actually, only 19.95 percent) of registered voters in Bradley County took the time to mark a ballot.
That’s a head-scratcher.
Analysts can analyze and interpreters can interpret these low turnouts all they want. To their credit, they’ve uncovered some credible answers. What they’re still short on is solutions.
So are we.
That’s why when we encourage voting — such as we are now — we offer just a handful of basic reasons why we believe people should vote.
But each bears repeating.
One, it’s American.
Two, Americans have died on battlefields for 238 years to protect this precious right.
Three, when voters fail to show up democracy will fail to stay put.
Four, in the absence of democracy basic freedoms long enjoyed, and too often taken for granted by the people, could become lost to the people.
And for those still not convinced, we offer No. 5. It’s as compelling as any reason we know. Simply stated, voting is the right thing to do.
Some might argue our point.
To those, we would argue this.
Go ahead. Take the vote away. And let’s see what happens. We suspect America’s new normal won’t be the America any of us had envisioned ... or wanted.
Ours is not a perfect system. But when compared to the rest, democracy is a mighty pretty lady.
And her beauty is founded upon this: THE VOTE.