Hamilton County voting locations see decrease in lines

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CHATTANOOGA, Tenn. (WDEF)- Tennessee voters have been at the polls all day today.

They have many decisions to make including a heated republican race for the U.S. Senate and many school board races in our area.

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News 12 went to Concord Baptist Church on East Brainerd, The Bethlehem Center in Alton Park and Signal Mountain Presbyterian in Signal Mountain.

The lines have been manageable and there hasn’t been a lot of waiting.

Concord Baptist Church is usually a busy polling location.

Today, there was no line or wait for voters to punch their ballot.

James Baldwin says that he will vote by any means necessary.

He says, “Since 1988, I have only missed one election.”

Baldwin says that all of the new COVID-19 precautions do not bother him.

“It doesn’t really matter as long as I get to vote. Things are a little bit spread out than what they normally are because of the social distancing. Before, they would only take up about half of that room. Now, they’ve got it all (laughs) and then some”, adds Baldwin. 

The Hamilton County Elections Commission says that the decrease in voting traffic is due to the increase in early voting.

Director of the  Hamilton County Elections Commission, Kerry Steelman, says, “I think that the lower turnout, or the decreased turnout on election day may be more reflective on the increase of absentee balloting or early voting.”

According to election officials, early voting accounts for 50% of the total vote turnout.

But this year, absentee ballots have seen an unexpected rise.

“One thing that we did see, that was unique this year, was a substantial increase in absentee voting an approximately 600% increase in absentee ballots were submitted during the early voting time frame,” adds Steelman.