Today, for the first time ever, I had to wait in line to cast my ballot. Estimated turnout is going to easily pass the number of votes cast county-wide in the February primary which saw 40.8% of voters going to the polls.
The state has county by county totals here. Hamblen County started this day at just over 11,000 votes cast, and judging by the long line of 50 or so folks around noon today, the county may set a record turnout for the 2008 race. Local ballot issues are driving voters to the polls as well.
First is another attempt by the city to adopt a liquor-by-the-drink ordinance, which failed by around 200 votes a few years back. Hard-line opposition has been quite strong and I suspect the referendum will fail by an even larger margin this time. I would dearly love to be wrong about that.
The other ballot referendum is for county residents on approving or rejecting a .25% sales tax increase. The measure failed in February, and then was passed this summer in the city. I'd say this is going to be close, but since most residents who shop are paying extra when they shop locally anyway, it may just win this time around. However, it doesn't seem fair to me to place a proposed tax increase on the ballot again and again in the same year, putting more and more pressure on those who said No to change their vote to Yes. But it happens often in our area, so my best projection says it will pass this time around.
This county will send a big majority of votes to John McCain, without a doubt. Sen. Clinton took the primary here with over 68% of the vote and Obama earning 22%. Will the Clinton supporters close ranks and support Obama? Most likely, yes. But a large conservative base turnout among church-goers who are fighting the liquor-by-the-drink referendum will all go for McCain, and he'll take the county. McCain will carry the state, too, but outside of Tennessee there's mostly gains for Obama and losses for McCain. (Just my observations on national polls - your view will differ, I'm sure.)
Republicans in the county will also send a good chunk of votes to 1st Congressional District candidate Phil Roe - but I expect Democrat Rob Russell will gain sizable majorities in some larger counties. However, his victory among the smaller counties in the district is unlikely - 130 years of a solid Republican grip on that Congressional seat is nearly impossible to change. However, I think Russell has the best chance of any candidate in many decades in changing that long-running status. My projection is their race is too close to call. Russell has to win Washington and Sullivan counties and at least one other smaller county.
I did notice that all in line with me today were being quite friendly, and many spoke of how good it was to see a large turnout.
Also, I will be live-blogging the returns from Hamblen County and other east TN counties on Tuesday and updating often with results.