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Election Commission eyes voter turnout with concern

Staff Writer [email protected]

Voter turnout is down in Washington County with only 5,683 voters coming out for early voting in July.

With percentages down 34.52% since 2018, Washing- ton County Election Commission Certified Administer of Elections Dana Jones made it known at a recent Washington County Commission meeting that she is concerned for the future of the county.

“If you compare day nine of early voting in July to day nine in May, in May we had 6,021 voters that had voted at the end of day nine, and in this go around we had 2,428 voters that had voted by the end of day nine,” Jones said. “Commissioners, I have provided the breakdown of each district so you can please en- courage your voters to come out and vote.”

The election committee site is updated every day accord- ing to Jones, and during the last few days of early voting, Washington County was in the bottom 10% across Tennessee.

“We will come out of it, then fall back down to the bottom,” she explained. “So, I encourage everyone to please vote.”

Commissioners questioned why the turnout was so low and how they can bring those numbers up.

Commissioner Suzi Williams was especially concerned with how low voter turnout affects the end result.

“As you can see, some of our districts have less than 100 people who have shown up to vote,” Jones said. “So that means 100 people are saying how everyone in that district will live for the next four years. That’s how low voting turnout turns out. If you want a voice in the county, I would highly encourage you to vote.

“I hear a lot of people saying ‘Well it’s just a state or county election; it doesn’t matter that much.” Well, it matters hugely because the difference in the price of a gallon of gas from Tennessee to different states is your state and local politics. So, show up to the voting polls and vote.”

“Then they can say, ‘Hey, I am a concerned citizen. I do vote. I have a vote. You need to listen to me please,” she said.

To Commissioner Phil Carriger, there was one big question that needed answer- ing.

“Why don’t people get out and vote?” he asked. “I don’t understand it. I’m puzzled. I’m ashamed. I’m angry. Why don’t people vote?”

Jones said it came down to one big issue; living in a highly Republican area.

“People want to know why their vote counts because they have a very limited choice,” she explained. “Then the other thing I hear is, ‘We already have three positions on our ballot where we have competition,” and that’s three county commissioners, that’s a constable if you’re in District 1 and you have your county mayor.

So, people are saying ‘I don’t have a choice on the ballot,’ so they don’t come out to vote. I still encourage everyone to come out and vote because your voice still needs to be heard.”

Additionally, Carriger said that it’s a frustration that’s been years in the making and a way needs to be found to get people to get out and vote.

“It’s an embarrassment when we have 18,000 veterans buried at Mountain Home and our last election, we have 15,000 people vote,” he said. “All those people over at the VA died so we could get out and vote. It angers me that people won’t get out and vote.”

However, Jones added that the more frustrating aspect is that the election office visits nursing homes and the VA, taking voting machines for those people to vote, and she said that not one person at the VA voted when they were given the chance this election.

“Your election commission is doing everything it can to bring out the vote,” Jones said. “I’m giving these numbers to the Republican and Democrat party, we have sandwich boards out, we’ve done interviews, we are communicating with the media with voting numbers. But if you guys can think of anything we can do, please let us know. We have made it convenient. We have evening voting hours now. We want every legal vote to count, and we want it to be easy for our Washington County voters to vote.”

The State/Federal/Municipal Primary and County General vote is Thursday August 4.