NASHVILLE, TN — With a last-minute surge, turnout for early voting in the Metro transit referendum neared 60,000 voters, according to the county election commission.

On the last day of early voting Thursday, 11,684 people voted, the highest of any day in the two-week period. That pushed total turnout to 59,289 and put the referendum – which would raise four taxes, including the sales tax, to fund a $5.4 billion transit plan – on pace to be one of the highest-turnout referenda ever.

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In 1996, 125,613 people voted on the referendum which ultimately led to the relocation of the Houston Oilers to Nashville to become the Tennessee Titans. In 2009, 73,912 people voted in the referendum which asked for – but did not get – approval of a charter amendment which would have barred most Metro services from using a language other than English. Depending on what percentage of people voted early – typically the percentage is between 50 and 60 percent – its likely the transit referendum will fall between those two figures.

Shockingly, nearly 24 percent of early voters asked for a Republican primary ballot, despite there being no Republicans running in the primaries for judge and the various clerk positions. That could spell doom for the referendum, because it suggests self-identified Republicans are turning out in higher-than-expected numbers and the conventional wisdom is GOP voters tend to oppose the referendum.

The regular Election Day is May 1.

Image via Shutterstock

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