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Early voting in county sets new record

By Brad Hicks

Much is up for grabs on both the national and local levels in the Nov. 8 presidential and municipal elections, and voters across Unicoi County have already turned out in droves to ensure their voice is counted.

As of Monday, afternoon, nearly 3,800 Unicoi Countians had cast ballots during the early voting period, according to Unicoi County Administrator of Elections Sarah Bailey.

Bailey added that this is ahead of the number who had voted in the past few presidential elections at this point of early voting.

“It has been a record turnout so far,” Bailey said.

The number of early voting participants for this presidential and municipal election represents more than 30 percent of the county’s registered voters, of which Bailey said there are approximately 11,100.

At this same point in the 2012 presidential and municipal election, around 3,400 Unicoi Countians had cast ballots during early voting. In 2008, that number was less than 3,000.

“So we’re doing quite a bit more than we had at this point four and eight years ago,” Bailey said.

The early voting period ends Thursday, Nov. 3. Those wishing to vote early may do so at the Unicoi County Election Commission office both Wednesday, Nov. 2, and Thursday from 9 a.m. to 6 p.m.

Voters in the towns of Erwin and Unicoi will decide the office of mayor for their respective municipality along with several seats on their town’s governing body. These same voters will also decide whether wine should be sold in grocery stores within their limits.

In Erwin, incumbent Mayor Doris Hensley is unopposed in her bid for reelection.

Four candidates are vying for two open seats on the Erwin Board of Mayor and Aldermen. Current Vice-Mayor Gary Edwards and incumbent Alderwoman Sue Jean Wilson are seeking reelection. Also vying for spots on the board are Rob Martin and Wayne Morris.

In the Town of Unicoi, longtime Mayor Johnny Lynch will face opposition from current Alderwoman Kathy Bullen for the office of mayor.

Three seats on the Town of Unicoi Board of Mayor and Aldermen will also be decided by voters residing within the the town’s limits.

Two candidates are vying to fill the unexpired term of former alderman Phillip Hensley, who resigned from the board earlier this year. Those looking to fill the two years remaining on the term are Roger Cooper and Billy Harkins Jr.

Four candidates are looking to fill two four-year seats on the Unicoi Board of Mayor and Aldermen. Current Vice-Mayor Doug Hopson and incumbent Alderman Jeff Linville are seeking reelection. Their opponents for the seats will be current Unicoi County Commissioner John Mosley and Jonathan Clint Miller.

Seats on both the Erwin Board of Mayor and Aldermen and the Town of Unicoi Board of Mayor and Aldermen are staggered, meaning the seats not up for grabs on Nov. 8 will be decided in the 2018 municipal election.

Referendums for voters residing in Erwin and the Town of Unicoi to permit the sale of wine in retail food stores located within the limits of each respective municipality will also appear on the Nov. 8 ballot.

Petitions previously disseminated in each municipality received the required number of valid signatures ahead of the August deadline for the referendums to appear on the ballot.

State lawmakers in 2014 approved a law permitting the sale of wine in Tennessee’s grocery stores. The law went into effect on July 1. But, while the law legalized the sale, it was left up to each county or city to have a local option election authorizing the sale of wine in retail food stores.

Oh, and that whole Donald Trump versus Hillary Clinton thing will also be decided on Nov. 8.

For more information on the Nov. 8 election or early voting, contact the Unicoi County Election Commission office at 743-6521.