By ZACH HARMUTH, SAMANTHA HEARN, QUINT QUALLS and EMILY WEST
Yanking the glass door open, Franklin’s Charlie Marston strode into The Factory.
He was on his way to early vote, one of the nearly 400 who had already voted in that location by 1:30 p.m.
Martson – who has lived in Franklin for 48 years – said it was the first time in his life he could remember he was voting against a candidate rather than for one.
“I’ve always voted for a candidate, but this one I am voting against,” he said. “I am more concerned with who loses than I am with who wins, and that is sad. A lot of bridges have been burned with this campaign and we can’t go back regardless of the outcome. At this point, it’s give it my best and go on for there.”
Marston said he also believed the top of the ballot affected how the down ballot races would go from Congress down to the state legislature. His wife standing beside him said she felt the same way.
“It affects it all the way to the bottom for me,” he said. “No matter how far down you get. I am interested in everyone down ballot about who they said they support and when they said it. That’s very important.”
Following the Marstons into the polling location, the line led to the back of the door. With a few machines not working this morning and a few malfunctioning at the Brentwood Library, a few voters were filtered to The Factory to vote.
But to end on a sweet note with the complicated ballot, The Factory had a few local businesses offering discounts to those with the bright red early vote stickers.
“We have some vendors here who love the City of Franklin,” The Factory general manager David Pack said. “The conversation led toward the people coming in to vote – with the coffee, the juice, the bakery – that kind of thing. They asked if they could offer an incentive or discount for those who voted early to support the people who are exercising their right and responsibility. It’s also good for business development.”
That would project a robust turnout, about equal with the 2012 presidential election between Barack Obama and Mitt Romney.
“I looked at four years ago, and that first day we had right around 4,300 ballots cast county-wide,” said Chad Gray, Administrator of Elections for Williamson County.
“We might exceed that.”
At the County Administrative Complex, things stayed steady through the morning but lines to vote rarely lasted much longer than five to ten minutes.
The most common reasons given for coming out early were ease and convenience rather than exuberance for one candidate or another.
“It is convenient and there are the lines are less and we are retired and we can do it,” Sylvia Phillips, who came out to vote with her husband Fred, said.
“There is nothing that can be said in tonight’s debate and subsequently that will change our minds,” Fred Phillips said.
“It was quick and easy,” Sylvia Phillips said.
There were a few administrative hiccups, which was to be expected. Gray said crowd control was a bit of an issue at The Factory, one of seven locations around the county to vote early.
“It is sort of like the first day of school, there are wrinkles to figure out,” Gray said.
The Spring Hill precinct at the Longview Recreation Center had seen a total of nearly 400 voters by early afternoon.
According to Anne Burns, polling official for the Longview precinct, the morning was very busy for the poll workers, with many voters already lined up outside the door waiting for early voting to begin Wednesday morning. She said there was a line for a couple of hours during the morning voter rush.
Burns, who has worked past elections, said it’s been a long time since she’s seen this kind of turnout for early voting.
“It’s been a long time, maybe back in 2008. But it’s not as big as this one,” Burns said.
“Now we have 15 voters every 30 minutes. You think it’s going to calm down and then two or three will walk in. Then you’ll think, OK, and then six will come in, and then you’ll look up and you’ve got a line.”
In Nolensville, polls had seen almost 150 voters by the time 11:15 a.m. rolled around. There was a line of about 10 to 15 people, mostly ages 40 and up.
Campaigners for Courtenay Rogers set up camp outside of the Nolensville Recreation Complex on Tuesday morning, holding signs in her favor and encouraging voters to consider their candidate.
Mary Winton Hughes and Sally Nance, the two campaigners, have both previously worked in politics, with Hughes working in Washington, D.C. for over 35 years and Nance working for the Tennessee delegation for more than 40 years.
“We think Courtenay is the best,” Hughes said. “It feels wonderful to have a bright young woman running for office and it’s nice to see that.”
Nance agreed, and said that during her experience working in politics she always felt more women should run.
“Tennessee just needs more women,” Nance said.
Campaigners for Republican candidate Sam Whitson were at the County Administrative complex alongside Rogers herself.
While the Brentwood Library saw no campaigners outside its doors, by about 12 p.m. they had seen close to 350 voters, with a line of about 35 people waiting for their turn to cast their ballot.
Election offical Wanda Graham-Smith said that due to a technical glitch, they didn’t get started until about 9:40 a.m.
“Those kinds of things just happen sometimes, but it hasn’t really affected our numbers,” she said. “We expected there to be a lot of people today. It’s been crazy.”
The Nolensville Recreation Complex is located at 7248 Nolensville Road, and the Brentwood Library is located at 8109 Concord Road. Voting is open until 7 p.m. today.