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VOL. 123 | NO. 153 | Wednesday, August 6, 2008

Get Ready to Vote Thursday

By Bill Dries

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Early voter turnout in advance of Thursday’s election was higher in Shelby County than it was four years ago. But it was lower than the total from two years ago.

Early voting ended Saturday evening at 19 locations across the county.

Election day polling places open at 7 a.m. Thursday morning and close at 7 p.m.

Shelby County Election Commission figures show 38,266 citizens cast early ballots through Saturday.

That compares to 26,365 early voters in August 2004 when the same set of offices minus the U.S. Senate primaries were on the ballot.

In August 2006, 77,245 early votes were cast in a ballot that featured hotly contested Democratic primaries for the U.S. Senate and the 9th Congressional District but none of the countywide offices on the general election ballot this year.

Thursday’s ballot features four countywide general election contests as well as two hard-fought congressional primary contests – one Republican and one Democratic.

Shelby County Register Tom Leatherwood is challenging Republican incumbent Marsha Blackburn in the 7th Congressional District GOP primary. The district stretches from eastern Shelby County north to the Kentucky state line.

In the 9th Congressional District, which is an all Shelby County district, incumbent Steve Cohen is being challenged by Nikki Tinker in the Democratic primary. It’s an encore of their 2006 primary duel for the congressional seat that opened when Harold Ford Jr. decided to run for Senate that year, losing to Republican Bob Corker of Chattanooga.

The more than 38,000 early voters this election cycle represented 6 percent of Shelby County’s 626,000 registered voters.

Most of the early voters, 68 percent, voted in the Democratic primary.

An Election Commission breakdown of early voters by race shows 43 percent were black while 38 percent were white. The remaining 19 percent were classified as “other,” which is the designation used when a voter does not indicate his or her race.

The highest turnout by precinct was 16.2 percent of the voters in precinct 75-04, which votes on election day at Westwood High School in Southwest Memphis.

In neighboring precinct 75-05, 13.4 percent of the voters living in that area cast early ballots. The election day polling place for voters in that precinct is Lakeview Elementary School.

The same percentage voted among those living in precinct 57-00, which votes on election day at Independent Presbyterian Church in East Memphis.

For a guide to Thursday’s ballot including two sets of proposed amendments to the Shelby County charter, see the July 16-22 edition of The Memphis News, www.thememphisnews.com.

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