At-large candidate Chris Cheng and wife Chelsea seek shade with Vice Mayor Jim Shulman at Green Hills Library on Monday. Credit: Nashville Banner/Addison Wright

After eight days of early voting, Davidson County has cast less than half as many votes as 2019 early voting and will need a much bigger turnout in the final days to approach those totals. This comes in spite of an increase of 63,157 eligible registered voters since the last mayoral election.

Campaigner Joyce Perkins said early voting has been “slow” so far. She’s been involved in political campaigns and activism for decades and is helping with Arnold Hayes’ campaign this year. 

“I think after yesterday, there were 23,000 votes plus. I’m horrified,” said Perkins. “But I’m thinking maybe people have not made up their minds yet. There’s a lot of candidates this season.”

With 12 names for mayor on the ballot and 21 for Metro Council at-large, it’s a lot to sift through before a voter enters the booth. But that isn’t stopping candidates from sitting on camping chairs in 90-degree heat. 

The atmosphere can range from casual to helpful. At Green Hills, a couple of campaigners said they drive each other home afterward, and a Howard Jones campaigner recalls incumbent vice mayor candidate Jim Shulman offering her a slushie. 

At-Large candidate Chris Cheng and his wife recalled meeting groups of voters and candidates huddled under a tent during a rainstorm at the Green Hills site, and a Twitter video shows mayoral candidate Matt Wiltshire throwing a football with Cheng at another early voting site. District 9 candidate Stephanie Montenegro posted on social media about her experience working with TIRRC to help a couple that did not speak English get their vote in last week. 

“Getting to meet the other candidates, especially in this type of environment, has been probably one of the most constructive educational experiences. I went to grad school for public policy and I’d say I’d probably learned more in these six months, especially three weeks,” said Cheng. “In such a digital age, it’s kind of fun, almost like informal community meetings.” 

So far, the Green Hills library voting location holds the lead for the highest turnout, and candidates have been gathering under its trees in the parking lot. Green Hills and Belle Meade are the only two early voting sites at or above a pace to equal 2019 voting totals. The other 10 sites are all behind, though Friday and Saturday voting is typically heavier.

“We’re watching turnout and this location seems to be the highest at this point. That’s a pretty good reason to come here,” said Shulman. 

Though Green Hills is number one, the candidates campaigning there say they’re working their way around to all the sites and candidates say there is a different energy to all of them. 

“I think talking to people at each different site has been really insightful. There’s different challenges in different parts of the county, and it’s been a really cool opportunity to learn about that,” said Cheng.

Direct comparisons to 2019 are tricky since only the Howard Building site was open for two weeks while all sites are open for both weeks this cycle. We’ve included the total number of voters by site so far in 2023 after eight days vs. the final numbers from 2019 as well as their pace over the first eight days:

Early voting location2023 to date2019 totalBehind 2019 pace?
Green Hills Library3,4936,003No
Belle Meade City Hall2,9135,101No
Hermitage Library2,7515,650Yes
Edmondson Pike Library2,5095,640Yes
Bellevue Library2,5015,630Yes
Madison Library1,7934,412Yes
Bordeaux Library1,7104,681Yes
YMCA-Margaret Maddox1,512n/a
Southeast Library1,5073,595Yes
Howard Office Bldg1,2424,778Yes
Casa Azafran Community Center7361,655Yes
Goodlettsville Community Center7141,570Yes
Source: Davidson County Election Commission

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.