“Early voting is becoming a lot more popular,” said Nina Crawford, chair of the Catoosa elections board.”
Voters can cast their ballots up to 21 days before election day. In both counties, a third of the voters cast their ballots early, a trend expected to become more popular in the years ahead.
“It used to be that you had to give a reason to (be allowed to) vote early, like illness or you were going to be out of town,” Crawford said. “But they changed the guidelines. Now you don't have to have a specific reason and it's made it a lot easier. It's not easy for people to have just one day to vote. I think it's the lifestyle we lead now. (Early voting) gives them more options.”
“I think it (early voting) makes voting more accessible for voters,” said Danielle Montgomery, administrative assistant of elections in Walker. “People breeze in and out, and (with early voting) they're not restricted to a rigid schedule just to vote.”
Additional sites for early voting are also making it easier to hit the polls early.
“We are a very large county, land-wise, especially in the north section,” Montgomery said, “so we've added four satellite sites to make (early voting) more assessible for people. It's easier for the north end to stay in the north end. Also, some of the elderly people may not want to travel, so they can do it in their own city now. I think it will continue to trend upward.”
Crawford said Catoosa County added additonal sites for early voting in the west end of the county.
Both managers also said a good race, while a major factor in better voter turnout overall, likewise contributes to early voting .
“Absolutely, a contested race contributes to early voting,” Montgomery said. “It pulls in those people who are seriously interested in the race.”
40,605 registered voters
9,403 votes were cast (23% of registered voters)
3,156 votes were cast early (33% of votes cast)
32,121 registered voters
11,805 votes were cast (38% of registered voters)
3,856 vote were cast early (33% of votes cast)