More than 270,000 residents voted early in Tennessee by Wednesday, according to the Tennessee Secretary of State, confirming a 91% increase of early-voting turnout compared to 2016.

Conservative Williamson County is no different in terms of turnout than Davidson County, it’s more progressive neighbor. Although the lines were not as long as the first day of early voting, when many reported waiting for hours, at 10 a.m. about 100 people lined up to vote at the Williamson County AG Expo Park.

Some voters waited 45 minutes for their turn to vote and others received COVID-19 testing on the same grounds normally reserved for fairs and rodeos.

Jiro and Karen Oi, completely decked out in protective gear, jokingly reported “killing two stones with one bird” about having received a COVID-19 test earlier. 

When asked why he was voting in person, “To me, it’s our duty [to vote], said Jiro Oi, 76, an engineer originally from Japan who became a citizen 20 years ago. 

“I was taught it’s a right but it’s also a duty,” said Karen Oi, who identified as an Independent voter.

Jiro Oi, 76, and Karen Oi, 66, after voting. (Photo: John Partipilo)
Jiro Oi, 76, and Karen Oi, 66, after voting. “It’s a right but also a duty,” said Karen Oi. (Photo: John Partipilo)

Jiro Oi said he would not go into details about politics – “it’s a quick way to lose friends” –  a sentiment echoed by other early voters. 

“I don’t want [party affiliation] to be on record,” said Kristen Houser, 36, who was voting while accompanied by her 5-year-old daughter, Dottie Jane.

One couple who wouldn’t give their names said that they were taking their 19-year old disabled son to vote for the first time for President Donald Trump but added they wanted politicians to focus more on issues dealing with disabilities.

“I wish they’d talk more about special education and the elderly,” said the 52-year old homemaker.  

Others were barely more vocal about their political beliefs, but they whispered their affiliations for fear of those around them hearing. 

When asked, Jeanine Collins, 60, quietly said, “let’s put it this way, I’m an ex-Republican,” and would be voting for Joe Biden.

“This is a really important election. Probably one of the most important that I’ve voted in,” said Collins, who’s retired.

“Locally I don’t know that my vote is going to make a lot of difference, but I’m going to get counted,” she said.  

Many young voters were voting for the first time. Emma Yoder, 22, who said she had formerly thought voting wasn’t important,  asked her mother to accompany her for her initial vote.  

“Just seeing the lines out here is just really inspiring, and you can tell people care,” said Yoder, who is voting for Biden.