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VOL. 124 | NO. 181 | Tuesday, September 15, 2009

It’s Now or Never for Voter Registration

By Bill Dries

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LATE ENTRY: Attorney Carol Chumney opened her mayoral campaign headquarters Sunday and a new offensive against rival A C Wharton Jr. -- PHOTO BY BILL DRIES

Today is the last day to register to vote in the Oct. 15 special mayoral election.

Early voting begins Sept. 25 with much speculation about how the large field of 25 contenders will affect voter turnout and how the votes are divided.

The last mayoral contest to see a significant influx of new voters was in 1991. Voter registration hasn’t been a major focus of political campaigns in Memphis since the 1980s because of the already high percentage of registered voters in Memphis and Shelby County.

The most recent Shelby County Election Commission statistics show 602,104 registered voters in Shelby County, which has a population of approximately 800,000 people.

Of the total number of voters in the county, 26,831 are considered inactive – meaning they haven’t voted in four years. The Election Commission is in the process of purging some voters from the rolls who haven’t voted in the past two presidential elections to get a more accurate count.

Election officials blame the inability to purge dead voters or voters who have moved out of the state on a lower turnout rate for elections in recent years.

Hot topics

Three of the best financed and most visible mayoral campaigns were out courting voters at the Southern Heritage Classic over the weekend at Liberty Bowl Memorial Stadium.

The campaigns of Mayor Pro Tem Myron Lowery, Shelby County Mayor A C Wharton Jr. and attorney Charles Carpenter all hosted tailgate parties at the Mid-South Fairgrounds.

NOTE: “Other” indicates a voter belonging to another racial group or a voter who did not indicate race on a voter registration form.

602,104 voters in Shelby County including Memphis
414,450 voters in city of Memphis
187,654 voters in Shelby County outside Memphis

Shelby County including Memphis:
Black: 210,343
White: 187,608
Other: 204,153

City of Memphis:
Black: 184,973
White: 99,672
Other: 129,805

Shelby County outside Memphis:
Black: 25,370
White: 87,936
Other: 74,348

Source: Shelby County Election Commission through Aug. 31, 2009

Meanwhile, attorney Carol Chumney hosted a more modest campaign headquarters opening Sunday in East Memphis that drew 30-50 people.

Chumney, a former City Council member who ran for mayor in 2007 and finished second to incumbent Willie Herenton, opened a new offensive against Wharton.

“It’s really important that we get back to basics in this community,” Chumney said as she attacked Wharton’s campaign platform of several dozen points from the 2002 campaign for Shelby County mayor. She lost to Wharton in the Democratic primary that year.

“Can anybody tell me in that 21-point plan what, if any, of those have gotten done? Nothing,” she said before turning to the current Wharton campaign platform.

“He’s proposing a 40-point plan. … To add new layers of bureaucracy to city government – create new offices – the office of human talent, the office of strategic design, the office of innovation,” Chumney told the small group of supporters. “Does that sound like somebody who knows what they want to do? No. … It sounds like someone who really doesn’t have a clue.”

Wharton has defended his plan as a comprehensive approach to not only solve long-standing civic problems, but also build consensus on the problems.

Chumney said her goals as mayor are to cut crime, revitalize neighborhoods, get more after-school activities for children, create more jobs and “fill The Pyramid.”

County races, faces

Meanwhile, voters in Arlington and Lakeland go to the polls Thursday to decide several local races.

Early voting began in both towns on Aug. 31 and ended Saturday. Through Friday, 16 of the 20,334 voters in both towns combined have voted in advance of Election Day.

In Arlington, four races for alderman are on the ballot. Two of the four are uncontested with incumbents Glen Bascom and Harry Mckee effectively re-elected at the candidate filing deadline.

Incumbent Brian Thompson faces challenger Claudia Horton.

Incumbent Oscar Brooks faces challengers Joshua Donovan Fox and Larry St. Clair.

In Lakeland, incumbent Mayor Scott Carmichael is unopposed. Don Barber and Cecil Tompinks are running against each other for commission posts.

PROPERTY SALES 83 405 4,276
MORTGAGES 104 424 4,814
BUILDING PERMITS 148 883 10,151
BANKRUPTCIES 53 264 3,149