Low turnout for Knoxville city election surprises few

Low turnout for Knoxville city election surprises few

Posted:
By Tuesday afternoon, slightly more than 100 people had voted throughout Knoxville. By Tuesday afternoon, slightly more than 100 people had voted throughout Knoxville.
Currently the top-two vote-getters in each district emerge to the general election. Currently the top-two vote-getters in each district emerge to the general election.

By MIKE KRAFCIK
6 News Reporter

KNOXVILLE (WATE)--  Tuesday was election day in Knoxville for the city primary, but it's a situation that begs the question - why bother? 

Only two races are contested and in those races there are only two candidates on the ballot, all of whom will move on to the general election in November.  

The election day voting totals were bleak.  By Tuesday afternoon, slightly more than 100 people had voted throughout Knoxville.  

George Steffaniak and his mother were the 5th and 6th voters at the Larry Cox Senior Center voting precinct in North Knoxville. 

"I think the primary is kind of a waste of time," said North Knoxville resident Elizabeth Steffaniak.  

Many say the primary elections have no competitive races to draw enough people to the polls.  

"It simply doesn't draw enough interest from the public to have a large enough turnout for it to be really meaningful, it's pathetic," said Robinson. 

Theotis Robinson Jr. would like to see a change, such as moving city elections to the same cycle as county and state.  

Robinson benefited from the present system of having nominees selected by district in primaries and then elected by all city voters in the general election.  

In 1969, Robinson became the first African-American elected to Knoxville City Council in 57 years.

Several things have changed since 1969: Voters initially voted for two people in the six district council races in the primary and two weeks separated the primary and general election.  

Currently the top-two vote-getters in each district emerge to the general election.  

Robinson says Knoxville city government has changed a lot since he was elected, when the city had a school system, welfare board and library system.  He says this is one reason for long voter turnout.

"The scope of city government is far less than when I served in office," said Robinson.  

Election officials say the current setup gives officials more accountability to all city voters--- not just in their district.  

"It's like the folks in the district have a little say in it, but everyone in the city gets to weigh in," said Knox County Administrator of Elections Cliff Rodgers. 

Rodgers says he expects this turnout to the lowest turnout of any primary in the city of Knoxville's history.

A little more than 1,300 people have already voted through early voting and absentee ballots.

Rodgers  says he is hoping around 1,500 to 2,000 voters will turn out on election day.

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