Once again, Blount County revealed its strong Republican bent as voters chose Donald Trump for President with an overwhelming 89 percent of the vote. With one absentee precinct out, Trump had tallied 22,808 votes to Clinton’s 2150. The county releases the official vote count eight days after the election and after any valid provisional ballots have been added to the total. See chart of official results on page A9.
In the Presidential race, Libertarian Gary Johnson received 337 votes and Green Party candidate Jill Stein tallied 89. The unofficial count revealed 146 write-in votes with 64 over votes (voting only for President) and 88 under votes (voting in other contests but not for President).
According to Bonnie Montey, chief clerk in the probate office, the 25,682 preliminary vote total tops all previous contests. That figure, sure to rise with the final count, translates to just over 68 percent of the then-record 37,677 registered voters in the county. Board of registrars personnel had previously commented on the large number of new registrants and that many older voters who had never previously registered. Local tax increase approved
Bucking the perceived normal trend, Blount Countians approved assessing themselves an additional 1-cent sales tax. That unofficial total revealed 13,147 (56.61 percent) voting “yes,” and 10,076 (43.39 percent) voting “no.”
The “Moving Blount County Forward” initiative passed in all but five precincts (Allgood, Brooksville, Murphree Valley, Rock Springs, and Sugar Creek-Bangor) with the Allgood tally revealing a 222-222 tie.
Probate Judge Chris Green, an ardent advocate of the measure, spoke happily of the victory to The Blount Countian on election night. “I am proud of the people of Blount County and Oneonta. I am humbled that the people entrusted us with their money. We are going to do exactly what we said we would do. They will soon see it being implemented.
“When the people of Blount County have the right information and facts, they will make the best decision for Blount County. We’re going to look forward to demonstrating that we’ll do what we said we would do.”
District 3 Commissioner Dean Calvert, the original author of the plan, spoke to the election night crowd assembled at the courthouse. He said that he first went to the judge, saying that he thought the county could do this. He elaborated that as he sought support of others, he realized the need was much greater than just roads, as proponents added schools, volunteer fire departments, and municipalities.
He joked that at one point the judge had advised him he still had time to back out. He said he had told him, “No, I’m in. I’ve prayed about this and believe this the right thing to do.”
Some other victorious candidates referred to the initiative in their courthouse comments. Commissioner Mike Painter, District 2, expressed his optimism at the upcoming four years and his gratitude to Green and Blount County Superintendent Rodney Green for their efforts to move the county forward through the initiative.
Superintendent Green spoke of the need for the additional funds (estimated at $850,000 for the first year of the tax) in order to address building concerns. He said the funds come at an opportune time.
Re-elected school board member Chris Latta thanked Judge Green for his efforts in the initiative. He said he was excited to begin his third term and that with the initiative he looked forward to what the board and people can do for schools. Notes of interest
The election revealed some shifting power and upcoming changes. Precinct Four in Hayden recorded more votes than normal leader Oneonta. That precinct tallied 2674 votes to Oneonta’s 2494.
Circuit clerk Cindy Massey reported a presumed-record 851 requested absentee ballots. She noted that voters returned 91 percent of those ballots.
Montey labeled the use of iPad sign-in terminals a success – a half-dozen precincts experimented with that new technology. Montey reported that despite some initial machine glitches, poll workers and voters seemed pleased with the technology. A prospective voter scans his or her driver’s license, and the appropriate identification appears. Should the voter be at a wrong location, the screen reveals his/her correct precinct site.
Trying to vote at the wrong location reportedly led to the extended delay in receiving ballots from Dallas-Selfville. It was reported that a voter arrived near closing and learned she was registered elsewhere. She complained and said she would not leave and wanted to vote there. Workers told her she would have to vote a provisional ballot, with which she took exception. The lady reportedly feared her provisional ballot would not be counted.
Judge Green, reached by telephone, relayed the same message. Seeing no other option, she accepted that offer. In proceeding to vote, she posed numerous questions over some of the proposed 14 state constitutional amendments. That precinct’s data did not reach the courthouse headquarters until after 10 p.m.
One of the board of registrars’ tasks is to review provisional ballots, determine voter eligibility, and forward the eligible to the county’s three election officials (probate judge, circuit clerk, and sheriff ) for counting. The officials, with the optional attendance of invited county party officers, follow the steps noted in paragraph one above and release the then “official” final figures.