Turnout on the first day of early voting for Nashville’s special mayoral election on Friday was low, a stark contrast to the heavy early voting seen in the just completed May 1 transit plan referendum and the August 2015 mayoral election.
Only 277 residents of Nashville/Davidson County early voted on Friday, less than one-third of the 900 who early voted during the first day of the early voting period leading up to the August 2015 mayoral election, which saw the top two vote getters, Megan Barry and David Fox, qualify for the runoff election the following month that Barry won.
Metro Council member Dave Rosenberg, who also runs Harpeth Strategies, the polling and political communications firm, tweeted the details of the low first day turnout:
277 people voted today.
On one hand, it’s a Howard School-only day that doesn’t draw like countywide early voting.
On the other hand, about 900 people voted on the first Howard-only day in the August 2015 race.
— Dave Rosenberg (@DaveRosenbergTN) May 4, 2018
Early voting in advance of the May 1 transit plan referendum, which extended over a 16 day period beginning April 11 and ending April 26, was far more robust.
A total of 59,289 early votes were cast during that time, including a one day record of 11,684 cast on the last day of that early voting period, Thursday April 26.
During the preceding 15 days of that early voting period, a total of 47,604 early votes were cast between April 11 and April 25, an average of 3,173 per day.
Acting Mayor and front runner David Briley reminded his supporters on Friday about the importance of early voting on his campaign’s Facebook page:
Former Vanderbilt professor Carol Swain, Briley’s nearest rival, according to polls from The Tennessee Star and Harpeth Strategies, took her early voting message to a number of electronic billboards around the city (like the one near Nissan Stadium pictured in the headline image above), and reminded residents of Nashville/Davidson County that early voting begins on May 4 and continues until May 19.
As a point of comparison, about 105,000 votes were cast in the August 2015 mayoral election, and about 124,000 were cast in Tuesday’s transit plan referendum.
After voters rejected the transit plan on Tuesday by a 64 percent to 36 percent margin, an article in The Tennessean suggested that voters might be suffering from election fatigue and might be less likely to vote in the May 24 special mayoral election.
Friday’s low early voting turnout would appear to be evidence that supports such low turnout speculation.
Two questions no one can answer quite yet are: (1) just how low will the turnout be? , and (2) what impact will a low turnout have on the chances of the competing candidates to win?
The Tennessee Star has consulted with several sources familiar with the Nashville political scene, and the possible range of total turnout for the May 24 special election varies from a low of 60,000 to a high of 95,000. These sources had previously estimated the low end of the range at 85,000, but the extremely low early voter turnout on Friday has caused significant downward adjustments in those estimates.
While 60,000 may seem far too low, early voting will have to turn up significantly over the remaining fourteen days until May 19 for turnout to approach the higher estimations of 95,000.
As The Star reported on Friday, residents of Nashville/Davidson can vote from May 4 until Saturday, May 19, as News Channel 5 reported:
Right now, you can only vote at the Howard Office Building in downtown Nashville. Hours vary but it opens at 8 a.m. every weekday.
All early polling locations will open next Friday, May 11.
WSMV offered this guide to early voting:
The following locations will be open for voting starting Friday, May 11:
Belle Meade City Hall – 4705 Harding Pike, Nashville, 37205
Bellevue Library – 720 Baugh Road, Nashville, 37221
Bordeaux Library – 4000 Clarksville Pike, Nashville, 37218
Casa Azafrán – 2195 Nolensville Pike, Nashville, 37211
Edmondson Pike Library – 5501 Edmondson Pike, Nashville, 37211
Goodlettsville Community Center – 200 Memorial Drive, Goodlettsville, 37072
Green Hills Library – 3701 Benham Ave., Nashville, 37215
Hermitage Library – 3700 James Kay Lane, Hermitage, 37076
Howard Office Building, Sonny West Auditorium – 700 2nd Ave S, Nashville, TN, 37210
Madison Station Fifty Forward – 301 Madison St, Madison, 37115
Southeast Library – 5260 Hickory Hollow Parkway, Suite 201, Antioch, 37013
Below is the schedule for the early voting locations:
Friday, May 11 – 8 a.m. to 5:30 p.m.
Saturday, May 12 – 8 a.m. to 4:30 p.m.
Monday, May 14 – 8 a.m. to 5:30 p.m.
Tuesday, May 15 – 8 a.m. to 7 p.m.
Wednesday, May 16 – 8 a.m. to 4:30 p.m.
Thursday, May 17 – 8 a.m. to 7 p.m.
Friday, May 18 – 8 a.m. to 5:30 p.m.
Saturday, May 19 – 8 a.m. to 4:30 p.m.