(T-G Photo by Mary Reeves)
"It's been steady like this since 8 a.m.," said Brandy Cook, the election commission's deputy administrator, as people drifted into the basement of the Bedford County Courthouse two or three at a time to vote. "As of 10:40 a.m., we had 209 people."
More were standing patiently in line.
"I'm kind of slow getting around since I've been sick," said Porter Hardison, emerging from the polling place, cane in hand. "I try not to wait in line. I told somebody behind me I wouldn't have to wait in line, and I had to anyway -- but not for long."
Diane Cook was another voter who showed up early to avoid long lines. She was surprised to see the one forming at the door of the election commission office, but not dismayed.
"I usually vote at the airport," she said. "In the last presidential election, the line was out the door. I had to wait for about 70 people.
"This is nothing."
Presidential elections traditionally draw higher voter numbers, and a high early voter turnout indicates big numbers on Election Day, Nov. 4.
According to a report done by the Pew Center, Tennesseans turned out fewer voters in the primaries this year -- but more Tennesseans turned out early. But even with the primary turnout being lower than the national average, it was still higher than in either the 2000 or 2004 presidential primaries, the report stated.
In 2004, Bedford County saw a record-breaking turnout for early voting as well, with 5,709 Bedford County residents participating in the general election during the early voting period. The previous high turnout for early voting was 3,500.
Besides the heated campaign between Sen. John McCain and Sen. Barack Obama, something else may be pulling in the early voters.
"We got here about 7:30 a.m.," said Diane Floyd. "There were about eight or 10 of us."
The "we" was a group supporting Obama, but what was more important, she said, they were there supporting the vote. They stood around the square, across the street from the courthouse, and raised signs urging passersby by to "Vote Today!"
"There is something really exciting about voting on the first day," said Floyd. "It shows how excited you are about the election. I think people who vote early encourage other people to vote."
And, she added, they avoid the long lines expected on Election Day.
WHEN YOU GO
WHAT: Early Voting
WHERE: Election office, basement of the Bedford County Courthouse
WHEN: Oct. 15-30.
Monday, Tuesday, Wednesday: 8 a.m. - 5 p.m.
Thursday: 8 a.m. - 6 p.m.
Friday: 7 a.m. - 5 p.m.
Saturday 9 a.m. - 1 p.m.