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VOL. 123 | NO. 22 | Friday, February 1, 2008

Early Voting Exceeds 30,000 in Shelby County

By Bill Dries

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Early voting in advance of Tuesday’s Tennessee presidential primaries has topped 30,000 in Shelby County. The turnout compares to 11,313 early voters in advance of the 2004 presidential primaries in Shelby County and suggests a higher level of voter interest that could boost overall turnout higher than the 10 percent turnout locally in the 2000 and 2004 presidential primaries.

Figures this afternoon by the Shelby County Election Commission show a surge in the last two days of the early voting period. Early voting ended Thursday.

On Wednesday, 8,057 citizens cast early ballots – the busiest day of early voting in the 13-day period. On Thursday, another 7,647 voted early – the second busiest day despite the polling places closing an hour earlier than on other weekdays.

The spikes in turnout came as the races for the Republican and Democratic presidential nominations changed in the last week. Democratic contender John Edwards dropped out this week, making the primary a showdown between Sens. Barack Obama and Hillary Clinton. And Republican contender Rudy Giuliani followed the lead of former Tennessee Sen. Fred Thompson earlier this month and dropped out of the GOP contest.

Early voting turnout in the Democratic primary was much heavier in Shelby County than in the GOP primary. Those voting in the Democratic primary made up 69 percent of all early voters. Most of the early voters were women – 61 percent. And slightly more of the early voters were black – 41 percent – although 23 percent of the early voters were in the “other” category of racial designation. Voters in Tennessee are not required to indicate their race when they register to vote. If they don’t, there race is classified as “other.”

Of the 19 early voting sites, Anointed Temple of Praise in southeast Memphis proved to be the most popular, with 2,433 people voting there during the early voting period.

Other sites that voted more than 2,000 people were Berclair Church of Christ in East Memphis, Bishop Byrne High School in Whitehaven, New Bethel Baptist Church in Germantown, White Station Church of Christ – also in East Memphis and Election Commission headquarters Downtown.

Historically, early voters tend to vote at sites nearest their homes, although early voters can vote at any location regardless of their residences.

Election day polling places are open Tuesday from 7 a.m. to 7 p.m.

Go to www.shelbyvote.com for more information including help in locating your precinct and polling place.

See this Web site Tuesday evening for the local and state results in both primaries.

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