Photo by Samantha Hearn / MTSU Sidelines Archive
Story by Ghaliah Almuyidi /Contributing Writer
Rutherford County had over 40,000 more early votes in the 2018 midterm elections than it did in the 2014 midterm elections.
Rutherford County Election Commission data shows that 65,956 people countywide voted in early election voting. In 2014, however, Rutherford County residents only cast 25,101 early and absentee ballots.
According to Kent Syler, a professor of political science at MTSU and former manager of Congressman Bart Gordon’s first campaign, the heavy numbers of early voting is what makes this year’s election interesting.
“Honestly, I would have not thought that it would be as heavy as it is,” Syler said. “I haven’t figured out yet if it’s just people wanting to get it over with and it’s going to fall off on election day.”
This year, Rutherford County is hosting a new experiment where voters can go vote at any precinct on election day, as long as they are a Rutherford County resident.
“Rutherford County overall does a pretty good job with getting people the opportunity to participate in early voting,” Syler said.
There is also no polling place on MTSU’s campus. The location inconvenience could be a contributing factor to the lack of students voters.
According to the Voting and Education’s 2017 MTSU report by the National Study of Learning, there were 19,887 eligible MTSU students in the 2016 election, and only 8,858 voted. This means that less than half of all eligible MTSU students voted during the 2016 election.
The American Democracy Project at MTSU, led by Mary Evins, is working on getting a polling place added on campus, which will make the voting process easier for students.
One of the issues facing the project of getting a polling place added to MTSU’s campus is the fact that the campus is carved up into different districts. This would make it possible to be on one part of the campus and end up being in a different house district.
Emilie Hendren, a public relations major at MTSU, is a registered voter in Lauderdale County, and she voted early for the third time. Since she is a registered voter in a different county, she requested an absentee ballot be mailed to her so that she could vote.
“If I’m not voting, I’m not making a difference,” Hendren said. “Whoever says that my vote doesn’t matter, it’s not really true. If I’m not voting, I’m not really getting my voice heard in the differences that are being made and the laws that are being made.”
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