Low turnout for Knoxville primary early voting prompts talk

Low turnout for Knoxville primary early voting prompts talk of moving dates

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According to the Knox County Election Commission, 51 people voted Wednesday, which was the first day of early voting. According to the Knox County Election Commission, 51 people voted Wednesday, which was the first day of early voting.

By SAMANTHA MANNING
6 News Reporter

KNOXVILLE (WATE) - Early voting is underway in the city of Knoxville primary, but as expected, voter turnout is low.

According to the Knox County Election Commission, 51 people voted Wednesday, which was the first day of early voting.

The most popular site was New Harvest Park, which totaled 15 people on Wednesday. Thursday, the site had around 30 people by 6 p.m.

The reason for the low turnout is in part because three of the five races include candidates running unopposed.

District 6 has two candidates, Daniel Brown and Pete Drew, but both will be included in the general election.

District 4 is the only race up in the air. Nick Della Volpe and Rick Staples are on the ballot, while Carl Lansden is a qualified write-in candidate.

Despite the low voter turnout, some Knoxville residents said they choose to vote regardless of the race.

"I always vote ever since I was of legal age," Colvin Idol said. "It saddens me that the turnout is so low because this is the way we run our country."

But Idol is in the minority this year.

It's estimated 2,000-3,000 people will vote during this primary out of nearly 90,000 registered voters.

The city said it has budgeted $260,000 for the primary and general election this year.

Knox County Administrator of Elections Cliff Rodgers says there is a benefit to holding the odd-year elections, saying the poll workers are better prepared.

"Their skill set gets rusty, and if they're only going from one big election in an even year to another big election two years later then there's something lost in the transition," Rodgers said.

But some voters say they feel the city should include the city primaries with the county and state primaries in order to save money.

"It's very costly to the taxpayers to have elections where there's very few people voting," Knoxville resident Mark Hancock said.

Knoxville Vice Mayor Nick Pavlis says he agrees, saying the policy is something to be looked at again once the final voting numbers are counted.

"I think it's something after this election cycle, if the pundits are right, this is probably going to be a very low turnout and it would be the perfect timing to be reexamined," Pavlis said.

Changing the years Knoxville city primaries are held is not a move Mayor Madeline Rogero supports.

In a prepared statement, Rogero said, "It would be difficult for city issues and candidates to break through the noise of competing elections, which would rob city voters of important public discussion and debate such as we experienced in the 2011 mayoral and council elections.  Having to fight for voters' attention among bigger races would likely increase the cost of running for office and discourage those without easy access to funds from running. Instead, we should look for other ways to reduce the costs of city elections, raise awareness of campaigns and candidates, and increase voter turnout."

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