Even though voter turnout was slightly lower than predicted, compared to the 2008 general election (69 percent), officials said alcohol and the presidential election were the biggest motivators on Tuesday.
Of the 41,328 registered voters in Catoosa, 28,849 (57.7 percent) cast ballots. Poll reports show that 12,659 regis-tered voters (30 percent) took advantage of early voting, compared to 13,722 (38 percent) for the general election in 2008, when there were 35,617 registered voters.
Ron McKelvy, voting official at Ringgold, said early voting was down probably because the window for early vot-ing got smaller. Laws recently reduced available days for early voting from 45 to 21. Election board member Ricky Kittle said overall lower turnout was probably due to the lack of candidate opposition across the board.
“Everyone knew the outcome,” Kittle said. “I think most of the races were already decided, so people didn't really feel all that pressured to vote. But alcohol was a huge draw. Everyone wanted to vote on the alcohol issues.”
As predicted by many, Republicans dominated the elections, as well as constitutional amendments regarding charter schools and real estate rentals. Kittle said the only minor surprise for him was how well the write-in sheriff candidate fared in the sheriff’s race. Mark Cruise received 687 votes against winner Gary Sisk.
Tonya Moore, voting manager at Catoosa Hall, said all results are unofficial until Friday, Nov. 9, when military, overseas and provisional counts are in. But none of the races were close or questionable, so those votes won’t change any outcomes. She said the only setback was some confusion regarding early voting dates.
“People think they can early vote right up through election day,” Moore said. “But that's not true. We stop and lock up the early voting machines on Nov. 2, and they aren't tallied until election day. From Nov. 2 through Nov. 6, we have to get ready for election day, so there's no early voting during those days.”
Kittle said there was also some miscommunication regarding jury duty laws.
“We still have people who are afraid to register to vote because they think they'll be called in for jury duty,” Kit-tle said. “That's no longer true and hasn't been the case for several years now.”
Regardless of the minor setbacks, Kittle said early voting was a huge plus, especially for residents on the west side, where voters were able to take advantage of the new West Side precinct, and the day ran fairly smooth.
“People are excited about early voting and not having to juggle work or hurry out on election day,” Kittle said. “So that definitely helped. Plus, Tonya and her crew had it all under control. She and her staff did a great job.”