KNOX COUNTY, Tenn. — Almost 34,000 people voted early in the first four days of the voting period in Knox County, figures show.
In addition, 8,758 people sent in mail-in ballots by Oct. 17.
Early voting continues through Oct. 29.
Downtown West, Farragut Town Hall, the Expo Center and New Harvest were the most popular locations Oct. 14-17, having seen about 17,000 people collectively cast a vote.
The lightest traffic was at the Carter Senior Center, 9040 Asheville Highway, with about 1,672 votes cast.
Votes can be cast at 10 locations in the county this week.
In 2016's presidential race in the county, more than 133,000 early votes were cast.
More than 5,000 absentee ballots were cast for that election.
Because of concerns about COVID-19, mail-in ballots this fall already dwarf that number and are expected to go much higher. For the Aug. 6 election, which included a general county election and a state and federal primary, more than 11,500 mail-in ballots were cast.
OCT. 14 original story: The first day of early voting Wednesday resulted in 8,128 people casting a ballot in Knox County.
The Knox County Election Commission also has received 5,346 mail-in votes. So far, the Election Commission has reported a total of 13,474 votes already cast.
Long lines were reported at several polling sites across Knox County. The first day also proved to be a record one for turnout statewide.
While heavy local turnout may have discouraged some from casting a ballot Wednesday, but there are many days left for residents to take part in early voting this month.
Also, you don't have to cast an early ballot in just one place. There are multiple sites where you can typically go, including in Knox County.
Chris Davis, administrator of elections, also said Thursday that while the lines may have been long at some locations, that's partly due to people spreading out to promote social distancing.
Officials also have put new safety guidelines in place due to the COVID-19 pandemic, including poll workers wearing PPE and social distancing requirements.
Davis said he also was happy with the turnout even if it wasn't a record for a single day.
One reason more ballots weren't cast at locations such as Downtown West, which is historically the busiest early voting spot, or Farragut Town Hall: Fewer machines were being used.
Davis said because of social distancing restrictions, he couldn't use as many voting machines at some places as he usually can. For example, under normal circumstances he'd have 48 voting machines at Downtown West; this year he said he can only use about half that amount.
Fewer machines means longer lines and likely lower volumes.
On Wednesday, Downtown West saw 1,299 votes cast. For the same first day in 2016, there were 2,259 votes cast.
On Wednesday, Farragut Town Hall saw 834 votes cast. For the same first day in 2016, there were 1,647 votes cast.
Other early voting sites did see an increase in numbers compared with past turnout, he said, such as the site at the Carter Senior Center.
Statewide numbers were big, according to the Tennessee Secretary of State's Office.
Through Wednesday, a record-breaking 273,325 people cast their ballot by voting early or absentee by-mail, according to the office. That's a 91 percent increase from the first day of early voting in 2016 and a 120 percent increase over 2012, according to the office.
Locations and hours
Early voting locations are open 10 a.m.-6 p.m. Monday through Friday, Oct. 14-24. On Saturdays, they are open between 11 a.m. - 5 p.m., except for the City-County Building, Meridian Baptist and the Karns Senior Center.
Then all locations will be open between 8 a.m. - 8 p.m. Oct. 26 - Oct. 29, except for the three listed above. All early voting locations in Knox County are listed below:
- Downtown West, 1645 Downtown West Blvd., Unit 40
- Halls Recreation Center, 6933 Recreation Lane
- Farragut Town Hall, 11408 Municipal Center Dr.
- Carter Senior Center, 9040 Asheville Hwy.
- Love Kitchen, 2418 Martin Luther King Jr. Ave.
- City-County Building, Small Assembly Room, 400 Main Street
- New Harvest Park, 4775 New Harvest Lane
- Knoxville Expo Center, 5441 Clinton Highway
- Meridian Baptist Church, 6513 Chapman Highway
- Karns Senior Center, 8042 Oak Ridge Highway
- Baker Center (UT Campus), 1640 Cumberland Avenue
Elections officials said they expect early turnout will exceed in-person voting on Election Day, which is Nov. 3. That trend has been growing the past several election cycles.
Voters can use a sample ballot on the Knox County Election Commission's website to prepare to cast their ballots before heading to the polls.