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One of 2017's Top News Stories: Voters Elect Most Diverse Council in City's History 

Most lists of the top news stories in Knoxville in 2017 included the election of the most diverse City Council in Knoxville’s history.

For the first time, four women are serving, including the first Indian-American and the first African-American woman.

The five newest members of City Council were sworn into office on Dec. 16, 2017.

Elected Nov. 7, sworn in on Dec. 16 and now serving are:

• Stephanie Welch (1st District);

• Andrew Roberto (2nd District);

• Seema Singh-Perez (3rd District);

• Lauren Rider (4th District); and

• Gwen McKenzie (6th District).

But the story behind the Election 2017 story was the energized electorate, spurred by a record number of 30 candidates who threw their hats into the ring last spring. That momentum was enhanced by the 10 ballot candidates and one write-in candidate who advanced from the Aug. 29 district primaries to run citywide in the Nov. 7 General Election.

Mayor Madeline Rogero praised voters for their year-long engagement with the candidates and issues.

“The ongoing community dialogue was memorable and meaningful,” Mayor Rogero said. “It created momentum, and the candidates’ connection with citizens resulted in 11,739 votes being cast in the General Election – one of the biggest voter turnouts in the past quarter century. There was a significant increase in voter engagement from start to finish.”

Many of the 30 candidates attended the Go Vote! Knoxville kickoff.

Mayor Rogero and the City's Communications Department created the Go Vote! Knoxville initiative last summer to encourage more people to get to know the candidates and then to vote. Family-friendly Go Vote! Knoxville meet-the-candidate events were held in all six Council districts, and the City created a website to make it easier for citizens to get election information, find candidate forums, and compare where the candidates stood on issues.

The first evidence of significantly greater voter engagement came in the Aug. 29 primary. A total of 7,141 voters cast ballots in the five primary races.

Turnout in August 2017 was the biggest in a non-mayoral primary election since term limits took effect in 2001. Before that, you’d have to go back to 1989 to find a City primary without candidates for Mayor on the ballot in which more votes were cast.

The number of people who voted in Aug. 29 primaries increased by about 75 percent from the number who voted in the 2009 primary, the last time these same 1st, 2nd, 3rd, 4th and 6th City Council seats were on the ballot and there were no incumbents running.

Across all five of the Council districts with a primary election, the number of voters increased over the number who voted in the 2009 primary. The biggest increases were in the 4th District (153.8 percent) and 6th District (152.1 percent).

The trend continued into the Nov. 7 General Election. Turnout in November 2017 was up by 47 percent citywide from the 2009 General Election – again, the last time these same races were on the ballot and there were no incumbents running.

Just like in the primary, voting was up in every Council district in the General Election. The biggest increases were once again in the 4th (about 86 percent) and 6th (more than 70 percent) Council districts.

The nearly 12,000 votes cast last November represent the largest vote count since 2011, when there was a race for mayor on the ballot that year.

In fact, the 2017 General Election voter turnout was larger than the turnouts in 2015, 2013, 2009, 2007, 2005, 1999, 1997, 1995, 1993 and 1991. Only non-mayoral General Election turnouts in 2001 and 2003 (the Mayor’s race was decided in the primary that year) were bigger than this year’s.

While the city is trending in the right direction, there's still a lot of room for improvement. Turnout was just over 13.3 percent of the city's 88,000 registered voters.

Go Vote! Knoxville

One unfinished piece of business: When Mayor Rogero announced the Go Vote! Knoxville initiative last June, the City’s Communications Department pledged to track trends with turnout. That way, the Council districts with the largest percentage turnout and the largest increase in voter participation (compared with the 2009 Council election) could be recognized.

While participation was increased across the City, in all districts, a special salute to the voters in the 2nd, 4th and 6th Council districts is well-deserved!

4th District

• Set the example with one of the highest percentages of registered voters who cast ballots in both the Aug. 29 Primary and Nov. 7 General Election;

• Roughly doubled the percentage of registered voters who cast ballots in the two elections, compared with the 2009 election; and

• Increased the total number of votes cast by 153.8 percent and about 86 percent, respectively, in the 2017 Primary and General Elections, compared with the 2009 elections; the percentage increases were the largest of the six Council districts.

 

2nd District

• Set the Knoxville bar with one of the highest percentages of registered voters who cast ballots in both the Aug. 29 Primary and Nov. 7 General Election;

• Increased the total number of votes cast by 26.2 percent and 30.4 percent, respectively, in the 2017 Primary and General Elections, compared with the 2009 elections; and

• Led all Council districts in voter turnout in both elections, with 2,062 ballots cast in the Primary Election and more than 3,000 ballots cast in the General Election.

6th District

• Tripled the percentage of registered voters who cast ballots in the Aug. 29 Primary Election, compared with the 2009 election;

• Doubled the percentage of registered voters participating in the Nov. 7 General Election, compared with 2009; and

• Increased the total number of votes cast by 152 percent and 72 percent, respectively, in the 2017 Primary and General Elections, compared with the 2009 elections.

“Congratulations to the candidates and the thousands of residents, business owners and other stakeholders who invested time and energy in 2017, working through ideas for making Knoxville better – and who then took the next step by punching a ballot on Election Day,” Mayor Rogero said. “We thank you, and we welcome your continued ideas and passion in the new year.”

Posted by evreeland On 04 January, 2018 at 2:59 PM