More than 20,000 people voted early in Williamson County.
Williamson County Election Administrator Chad Gray said he was hoping to at least double that number on election day.
About half the voters cast their ballots early in the two previous elections this year.
“I’m afraid some of my predictions won’t come to fruition,” he said. “Sometimes the electorate is hard to predict.”
Gray visited a voting location in Westhaven Thursday morning and wasn’t particularly impressed with the turnout. He said there were about 100 votes by 9 a.m.
He said that polls hadn’t reported any major problems. Voters were able to cast their votes with any issues, and there weren’t long lines.
Gray said he expects to get a boost to those numbers later this afternoon when people come back from work. The polls will close at 7 p.m.
Anyone still in line at 7 p.m. will be allowed to vote.
That’s what happened in 2016 at several polls in the election that included the presidential race. That year 72 percent of the voters in Williamson County showed up, some standing in line until close to 9 p.m.
Generally, turnout is not quite as robust in non-presidential years, known as “midterms,” but a strong early voting turnout of 14 percent, and more contested local races than usual has many hoping for a better turnout this year.
“Less than half as many people vote in the midterms generally,” said John Gregg, who was working for the election commission at a poll in Spring Hill.
Gregg, who has lived in Spring Hill for 22 years, said he saw around 750 people visit his voting location during the 2016 general election. Gregg said he expects around 300 – 400 today.
Karthik Marimuthu moved to Spring Hill from Memphis four years ago, says he believes the midterm elections are as important as the general elections, saying they demonstrate “the freedom of the people.”
“I think that’s a good thing for people to participate in all levels of election, not just in the general election,” Marimuthu said. “It’s a process. You can choose the right candidate before you go to general election.”
In Franklin, voting at Oak View Elementary was steady shortly after 7 a.m., with two dozen cars in the lot and campaigners on the grass.
But later in the morning, a voting registrar said only 75 had come to the location.
He mused about the 2016 general election, when he said election volunteers were at the building an hour after the polls closed, because, “the line wrapped around the gym,” when it was time to close.
By 11:30 a.m. poll workers at the First United Methodist Church in Nolensville, in District 5, had counted about 150 votes.
Poll worker John Colebank said there had been a steady stream of visitors, but the church was far from crowded.
There was more activity at the Brentwood Library, which is in District 6. Poll worker Robert Williams said there had been about 50 people voting per hour since they opened. There was a line of about 25 people at the door when they opened at 7 a.m.
“It comes in spurts,” Williams said.
County Commissioner Jeff Ford, one of the seven candidates for Tennessee House District 61, said the slow but steady parade of voters is deceptive.
“At the end of the day it all adds up,” he said, while canvassing with a number of candidates at Brentwood Cumberland Presbyterian Church.
Ford said he expected the 61st race to come down to 100 votes among the leading candidates.
He was there along with fellow District 61 candidates Gino Bulso, County Commissioner Robert Hullett, and Rebecca Purington, plus Tennessee House Speaker Beth Harwell, a gubernatorial candidate, and County Commission candidates Bert Chalfant, Tom Tunicliffe and Sara Melamed.
A number of Williamson County Republicans gathered earlier at City Cafe in Brentwood to support Congressman Marsha Blackburn in her bid for the U.S. Senate, including Gov. Bill Haslam and Sen. Jack Johnson.
Dennis Kiser, a Spring Hill resident of 13 years, said those who complain about taxes and other issues would do better to get out and vote.
“If you don’t vote, you don’t have any right to gripe,” Kiser said. “I tell people all the time: voting is griping rights. If you didn’t vote, what’re you complaining about? You didn’t even make the effort to get up 5 minutes early, walk over and cast a vote? It takes five minutes.”
Gray said election results will be streaming online this evening via WCTV at https://youtu.be/ky5s-UtKB8w .
After that, the poll workers will get a short break. Early voting for the November general election begins on October 17.