Voter registration forms Credit: Tennessee Secretary of State

The voter registration deadline ended last week, and Nashville’s base has increased by 63,157 eligible registered voters since the 2019 Metro general election. Does this mean anything for the upcoming election turnout? 

“In the 2018 election when Phill Bredesen was running against Marsha Blackburn for U.S. Senate there was lots of advertisement on TV, and people were talking about it. We saw a big surge in voter registration before that election, and we saw record turnout,” said Jeff Roberts, the Davidson County Administrator of Elections. 

Julia Bruck, director of communications for the Secretary of State’s office, hopes for a large turnout this election as voters will make “important decisions on Nashville’s next mayor and city council seats,” but said the election likely won’t break any turnout records.

“Typically, we see the highest voter turnout for presidential elections due to the competitive nature of the race and the national spotlight,” said Bruck. 

According to the DCEC, 10,600 voters were newly registered in 2023. This includes a late surge during election season: Since candidate petitions were turned in on May 18th, there have been 2,891 new registered voters. There are 496,468 total eligible voters in this election, with 413,100 of those registered as active voters.

Both active and inactive voters included in the total eligible voter count can vote, but while an active voter’s address is correct and complete, an inactive voter’s address is not. Voters can check their status online

Registrations have outpaced the county’s growing population, with about 69.79 percent registered, compared with 2019’s 62.42 percent. 

Roberts said it is tough to draw a direct correlation between voter registration and other numbers. He says that Nashville’s population increase is “naturally going to drive your [registration] numbers.” When new residents go to obtain a new driver’s license, they are prompted to register to vote, and the state’s implementation of online voter registration in 2017 made it even easier to register.

“In reality, you probably have more influence as a voter with [local elections] than you do voting in national elections, but that’s not where people migrate to,” says Roberts. 

Early voting begins Friday and Election Day is on Aug. 3. But since there is almost certainly going to be a runoff, Roberts said there is still time for people to participate this cycle.

“The voter registration deadline for the August 3 election has already passed, but for the September 14 runoff, you still have time to get out there, and it’s super easy to register to vote,” he said. 

Shulman outraises Henderson

In the race for vice mayor, incumbent Jim Shulman nearly doubled the fundraising total of his challenger, District 34 Councilmember Angie Henderson. Henderson raised $44,062 compared to Shulman’s $85,935. Of Shulman’s funds, $18,550 came from PACs or LLCs, including a $9,400 donation from A Better Nashville, a PAC with ties to the Nashville Area Chamber of Commerce that has been spending heavily this quarter. In comparison, Henderson received $500 from one single LLC, and the rest of her money came from individual donors. 

Shulman also doubled Henderson’s spending for the quarter, with the candidates spending $55,941 and $23,238 respectively. Henderson has more cash going into the home stretch, with $78,072 compared to Shulman’s $68,191.

Wiltshire returns some donations

Matt Wiltshire’s campaign will return more than $36,000 to donors after the Banner found that it had been collected for the runoff. Wiltshire’s campaign manager Kyle Buda confirmed the error on Wednesday and said the campaign had relied on advice from the Davidson County Election Commission given last fall that such donations were legal. Administrator of Elections Jeff Roberts confirmed that the office had given incorrect advice and, after confirming with the state Registry of Election Finance, said candidates cannot raise money until an election has been formally called. No other mayoral campaign had raised runoff cash.

Sepulveda breaks limits with donations to Montenegro

On Monday, District 9 candidate Stephanie Montenegro reported receiving a $2,000 donation from District 30 Councilmember Sandra Sepulveda, which is over the maximum donation limit for individuals of $1,800. When the Banner asked her about it, she said it was a reporting mistake and it was actually from Sepulveda’s PAC. PACs have a donation limit of $9,400. 

When the Banner spoke with Sepulveda, she confirmed that it was actually a mistake of her own. The donation came from her campaign, and she was under the impression that campaigns have the same max limit as PACs, which she said she believes is the case at the state level. On Wednesday, the Davidson County Election Commission confirmed Sepulveda is in error and that local campaigns have the same limits as individuals, $1,800. 

Sepulveda also said that after the second quarter deadline, she had made an additional $1,000 donation to Montenegro before she knew about the rule. Montenegro is returning the $1,200 that Sepulveda donated over the limit. 

Disclosure: Matt Wiltshire has donated to the Nashville Banner. Financial supporters play no role in the Banner’s journalism.

Addison Wright, a Nashville native, is a student-athlete (swimming) at UNC Asheville, where she's double majoring in Mass Communications and Political Science in the class of 2024.