Early voting starts today in Hamilton County


By Matt Wilson

Staff Writer

Hamilton County election officials and party leaders said they
expect turnout for early voting for the presidential preference
primary to be heavier than it was four years ago.

“We feel like it’s going to be a lot bigger than 2004,” said
Charlotte Mullis, Hamilton County deputy elections administrator.
“It is a wide-open field (of candidates).”

This year’s election marks the first time since 1952 that no
incumbent president or vice president has been on the primary

Ms. Mullis said election officials are expecting 35 percent to
40 percent of the county’s voters to cast ballots in the Feb. 5
primary. In the 2004 presidential primary elections about 17
percent voted, she said.

Early voting in this year’s presidential primary starts today
and lasts until Jan. 31.

Connie Weathers, chairwoman of the Hamilton County Republican
Party, said she expects early voting to pick up after South
Carolina’s Republican primary Saturday. She said the Republican
front-runners may be more apparent after that primary.

“I think there’ll be a little more clarity,” she said.

Ms. Weathers said party faithful are excited.

“I think, having so many candidates, we’re certainly generating
energy and bringing in new people,” she said.

Ms. Mullis said 1,607 new registrations came into the Hamilton
County Election Commission between Dec. 1 and Jan. 8. She said that
is 400 more registrations than in 2004.

Hamilton County has 186,360 registered voters, she said.

John Bailes, chairman of the Hamilton County Democratic Party,
said Democrats will be pushing hard to get people to the polls for
early voting.

He said party officials will provide transportation to anyone
who wants to vote.

Groups representing several candidates are helping with the
effort, Mr. Bailes said.

Hamilton County’s primary election and the special election to
fill the Chattanooga City Council District 6 seat formerly held by
Marti Rutherford also will be on the Feb. 5 primary ballot.

The only county office up for vote in the election is assessor
of property, for which assessor Bill Bennett is running

Carol Berz, Julie Chamberlain, Melinda Hickey, Rick Igou,
Barbara Kelley and Charles Shaw are the six candidates running for
the City Council seat.

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