Why Tennessee Primary Turnout Is the Lowest In U.S. (William Haupt III Exclusive Editorial)

“Just because you do not take an interest in politics doesn’t mean politics won’t take an interest in you.”- Pericles The Great, 495 BC-429 BC, The Golden Age of Greece, The father of democracy.

Image Credit: TN Secretary of State / Facebook

By William Haupt III [Tennessee Watchdog Journalist, Columnist, Author, and Citizen Legislator] –

Next time you complain about a massive property tax hike to your county commissioner, just ask yourself? Did you vote for him in the last primary election? Did you know that he also works for the county road department, and his division got a huge increase in funding? Or did you vote at all? 

Every election there’s a lot of focus on who voted. But there’s little debate about who didn’t vote?

Most people think voting is casting votes on Election Day amongst a frenzy of signs and banners  for state and national offices. Those who say “I voted for the lesser of two evils” are usually those who seldom carefully study their candidates and vote for the best ones running in the primaries. 

According to the office of the TN Secretary of State, in Tennessee’s Aug. 4 primary election, less than 20% of the state’s registered voters bothered to vote. This depressing data indicates that only 890,886 voters out of 4,491,549 cared who will be running our state next year. That’s 30,000 voters less than last year. This mirrors how apathetic voters are about defending our Republican values!   

Tennessee State University professor Kent Syler said that, “Everyone focuses on who is going to be president, forgetting that state and local governments have the most impact on their lives. From school boards to the State Houses, you can see there is little concern for important local races.”

According to the PEW Charitable Trust’s analysis of the 2020 midterm elections, their data shows the state of Tennessee was a dismal 40th in voter registration at 74% of the voting age population, and was 50th in voter turnout, at 28%, that election. PEW’s data is respected and accurate since it is based on voters’ responses to the U.S. Census Bureau’s Voting and Registration Supplement.

If voting in the primaries is so important, then why does Tennessee rank last in the nation? Simply, there is no consistency in how states notify voters of elections. Some states have not updated their voting laws since the passage of the Voting Rights Act of 1965! The American Standard for Voting notes only 19% of states scored above 60% according to the provisions in the Voting Rights Act. 

Failure to be notified of elections is the voter’s chief complaint. How can people vote if they don’t know there is an election? According to a UC Berkeley report, only half of the states make a real attempt to notify voters of elections. And all those states notify voters by U.S. mail. CA along with all other blue states send out sample ballots to their voters to study and utilize while at the polls.

The Voting Rights Act states, “failure to notify voters of an election is disenfranchisement.” Yet few people know this: Judging by local turn out, few care. Some states post election data on a bulletin board at their city hall. Others tack them on a wall at the library. Other states run them in a weekly fish wrap that nobody reads. All states list them on the Internet but if you don’t own a computer, too bad so sad. Some even hear about them on Facebook and Twitter—-only after it’s too late to vote.

According to U.S. Census data, since 2000, the average turnout rate for primary elections is a little over 33% average in most states. This jumps up to an average of 65.5% for the general elections.

So why is there such a discontinuity in turnout for general elections and the local primaries?

Since presidents, congressmen and governors run in the general Elections, they are big news on TV, radio, newspapers and social media for months. Then on Election Day people flock to the polls believing that electing a new president, congressmen or governor will be the panacea for all of their problems. Yet who do voters turn to when they want a bad teacher replaced, a street light fixed, a stop sign put up at a bad intersection: And where do they go to squeal about unfair property taxes?  

A recent American Standard for Voting study found that the number one reason people do not vote in the primaries is that they don’t even know those elections are being held. In states where voters are notified by U.S. mail of all elections and referendums, they have the highest primary turnouts. 

Tenn. Code Ann. § 2-1-110, states, “Notices of elections shall be published “in a newspaper (or newspapers) of general circulation to inform all voters of an election.” This has been obsolete for decades since newspaper readership is a fraction of what it was when this law was written! News Source reports that over half of the country’s newspapers have gone belly up in the last decade.  

The last attempt to amend § 2-1-110 was in 2015. The Tennessee Voters Right To Information Act stated that “a postcard shall be delivered by U.S. mail to all registered voters informing them of an election with the date and their polling place.” The bill was carried by then Rep Mark Pody and Sen Beavers. The bill died an instant death when the counties cried that it cost too much to follow the law!  

Before we ran the bill, I contacted USPS to secure the bulk rate for sending out these postcards for elections. “The government mailing rate” was much cheaper than “if our counties actually followed our current laws” and posted these elections “in as many newspapers as possible in each county to ensure every voter was informed of all elections, referendums, and every issue and candidate.”

Tennessee has a national reputation for being one of the states that has extremely low voter turn out for local and primary elections. Yet simply amending Tenn. Code Ann. § 2-1-110 to obligate governments to send out postcards in the US mail would resolve this. There is something “fishy in the Cumberland river”, if our counties have no desire to correct our antiquated state voting statues. 

You don’t need to be a genius to see why our counties won’t “rock the election boat.” Tennessee is the only state that allows county workers to run for positions on the county commission. Since the commissions are filled with county employees, low voter turnout is in their favor. If their friends and families only know about elections where “winner takes all,” they are easily reelected each election. 

With so many leftugees invading our state, this amplifies the need for every conservative voter to vote in every primary. It is critical that every native Volunteer votes for those who promise they will protect our southern values, traditions, religion, our patriotism and most importantly our red politics.

The 1965 Voting Rights Act ensures our right to vote is never violated. Those who think the VRA only protects the minority vote, don’t know their law. The VRA has been quoted by the Supreme Court a number of times as justification for state voter ID laws. They argue that every illegal vote counted nullifies votes cast by legitimate voters and the VRA applies to every registered voter.

With every seat on the line today and liberals chomping at the bit to flip them, every election at every level of government is critical for Republican survival. Tennessee has antediluvian voter notification election laws and they need to be updated if we want to prevent liberals and RINOS from diluting the serenity of the conservative values, freedoms, and the liberties we cherish most.  

Local government is the farm system for all politicians. Local elections have the greatest impact on our lives yet voter interest is dismal. The same retreads are reelected each year and too few care. Voters tend to forget what happens in local government segues into the state, then to the halls of Congress and even the oval office. And people wonder why we have so many imbeciles in D.C.?

It is time to correct the problem of low turnout for our primary elections. Progressives and liberals from the north are eager to take over key local and state offices so they can make Tennessee a clone of the state from which they fled. We need to resurrect and pass The Tennessee Voters Right To Information Act of 2015, to ensure that every registered Tennessee voter knows about every election and votes for candidates who will maintain the political integrity of our great state.    

“Voting in the midterm elections is important because when people engage directly with their local government, it reminds those placed in power that they are public servants who we the people will hold accountable for their decisions and their actions when the election is over.” -Larry Elder

William Haupt III is a retired professional journalist, author, and citizen legislator in California for over 40 years. He got his start working to approve California Proposition 13. His work also appears in The Center SquareThe Western JournalNeighbor NewspapersKPXJ 21 (Shreveport, LA)Killeen Daily HeraldAberdeen American NewsInsideNovaKankakee Daily JournalMonterey County WeeklyOlean Times HeraldThe Greeneville Sun and more. Follow William on Twitter @iii_haupt.

9 thoughts on “Why Tennessee Primary Turnout Is the Lowest In U.S. (William Haupt III Exclusive Editorial)

  • September 13, 2022 at 4:20 pm

    It would’ve been helpful to have access to what the candidates and judges that were on the ballot stood for. I voted in Primary but had no idea about judges. Also, very disappointed no Conservative ran against Governor Lee.

    • September 14, 2022 at 12:28 pm

      No conservatives ran against Lee because why shoot at something when you know your wasting your ammo. Politics takes real thought and strategy. Go into the battles you have a chance to win. Lee couldn’t be defeated, but you can sure get involved and help him understand what needs to change or be a part of the vetting committee who will be able to run in the next term. We have to many people who shoot from the hip aiming at nothing that will make a difference.

  • September 13, 2022 at 4:25 pm

    I moved here in April 2022 after fleeing tyranny in CA. I was raised on a farm in Northern California and enjoyed an upbringing of conservative values, responsibility, the power or hard work, and also the power of knowledge, as well as it is our God given duty to vote. With that, when the primaries came in Anderson county this year, I was appalled at the lack of interest. I couldn’t believe that there was little to no information on candidates, their voting records, or what they stood for. A republican tent at the fair pinpointed to their handpicked candidates, which I was skeptical of. I couldnt even get a sample ballot to find out who was even running until just a few days before the election! TN is extremely vulnerable of being taken over by liberals, and they can easily do it with this kind of lack of information, as well as the lack of people being willing to dig for information. Please, please, please do not let TN become another CA in its politics! I vote conservative, I investigate candidates, I even ask them questions, and make judgment calls based upon a ton of research. DO NOT let our state fall away because you just dont know. When I went to vote, I saw other voters obtain a ballot AT THE VOTING LOCATION! and they had no idea who most of the candidates were. This is a direct slap in the face of those that gave their lives so that we can vote.

  • September 13, 2022 at 4:29 pm

    And I challenge any body reading this article to approach your local election commission and see how they react to this article. You will most likely get dirty looks, avoidance and disdain. A determined group of strong patriots have been working for well over a year on the Bradley County election commission and their lack of transparency. It’s just brick wall after brick wall after brick wall. This article nails the truth about Tennessee and elections. Meanwhile, new commissioners have been seated in our county who have no business serving as commissioners. It’s just a good old boys club.

  • September 13, 2022 at 4:31 pm

    And I challenge any body reading this article to approach your local election commission and see how they react to this article. You will most likely get dirty looks, avoidance and disdain. A determined group of strong patriots have been working for well over a year on the Bradley County election commission and their lack of transparency. It’s just brick wall after brick wall after brick wall. This article nails the truth about Tennessee and elections. Meanwhile, new commissioners have been seated in our county who have no business serving as commissioners. It’s just a good old boys club.

  • September 13, 2022 at 8:39 pm

    Tennessee is the most under educated when it comes to local elections. This is why voters aren’t allowed to get an audit and the GOP can and will take people off the ballot if they don’t like who’s running. It’s the good ole boys club that runs this state and they know Tennesseans are under educated when it comes to their local government, there’s no such thing as coincidence.

  • September 13, 2022 at 8:42 pm

    Conversely, those who do vote are usually more interested and better informed than average.
    The lack of info on the “judges” is appalling. It’d seem they favor ignorance.

  • September 14, 2022 at 12:37 pm

    Excellent article! Complacency kills countries AND states, and that is what I fear I am seeing here. There are groups working around the state, but their base seems narrow by choice.

    The majority of people here are people of faith and that it one of the best things about the area. However, in many cases, these folks do not believe that they should become involved. There is long history of this in the Christian church, of course, but I cannot believe that our Lord does not expect us to help.

    Thank you for bringing this out. Truths are far better spoken.

  • September 19, 2022 at 4:02 pm

    Tennessee suffers from complacency, in most all areas. This is a good red state, and everyone seems secure in that fact.
    Also, defensiveness plays a big part. I moved here over a year ago, with some pretty good conservative credentials, and wanted to get involved in state-level politics and procedures. Every outreach I’ve made, including to this publication, has been ignored or rebuffed. I’m a writer of national “news with views” and have things to offer. The fact that no one seems to care is strange. It’s not about ego, it’s about breadth of input.
    I work with citizen activists in many other states. Why not in Tennessee? Inquiring minds want to know.


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