NASHVILLE, Tenn. (AP) – Tennessee voters turned out in record numbers over the past two weeks to cast their ballots for president, at times overwhelming the limited number of precincts that were opened during the state’s early voting period.

About 1.13 million residents cast ballots during the 14-day early voting period that ended Thursday. Tennessee has about 3.7 million registered voters, meaning 30.5 percent of them have already gone to the polls.

State Election Coordinator Brook Thompson called the turnout “astounding.” Thompson said he got the impression that voters felt the need to vote after the contested 2000 election.

“We’ve been talking about the presidential race virtually every day for a year,” he said. “People just decided ‘I’m, going to vote this time.’ And maybe people don’t trust polls so much anymore.”

Hundreds of early voters in Rutherford County stood in line for three to four hours, even ordering pizza in some cases, before reaching a booth at an athletic complex. Some brought folding chairs and books, while others just sat on the gym floor to endure the wait.

Although poll officials turned away folks trying to get in line about 7 p.m., the last ballot was not cast until after 11 p.m.

“I wanted to make sure I got my vote in,” said Brenda Baker after voting in Nashville. “I feel like more voices need to be heard this time.”

The turnout shattered the record of 747,753 during early voting in the 2000 election. In 2000, 2.1 million votes were cast overall.

President Bush holds a sizable lead over Democrat John Kerry in Tennessee – one of more than two dozen states that allow early voting.

In Georgia, officials reported that 180,000 residents had taken advantage of the state’s five-day early voting period by the end of the business day Friday. It is only a partial figure, based on reports from about half the counties. Lines of six hours were reported in some areas.



Only subscribers are eligible to post comments. Please subscribe or to participate in the conversation. Here’s why.

Use the form below to reset your password. When you've submitted your account email, we will send an email with a reset code.