VOL. 126 | NO. 45 | Monday, March 7, 2011
Early Voting Surges in Advance of Tuesday’s Referendum
By Bill Dries
The early voting period in advance of Tuesday’s Election Day drew nearly 30,000 Memphis voters.
Shelby County Election Commission statistics from the early voting period that ended Thursday evening show a surge of more than 7,200 voters on the last day – more than 4,000 the day before – the two highest turnout days for the voting period that began Feb. 16.
Election Day is Tuesday for the ballot question involving a consolidation of Shelby County’s two public school systems.
The 29,673 early voters are 7 percent of the city’s more than 400,000 voters.
What the single digit percentage early voter turnout means for overall turnout is hard to tell because of the unique nature of the ballot.
Early voting in Memphis usually accounts for a third of the overall turnout.
This time, the election ballot features the schools consolidation question and a one-candidate uncontested special election race for state representative District 98.
It is an unusual combination. A ballot question hasn’t been featured solo on an election ballot since a county education tax question in 1983.
In the last week of the early voting period, the so-called second track to schools consolidation garnered much of the political spotlight.
The Shelby County Commission passed an ordinance creating a 25-member countywide school board including Memphis and coupled it with a set of district lines and a calendar for receiving applications from citizens and making appointments to all 25 seats.
In response, Shelby County Schools amended its federal lawsuit against the city of Memphis, Memphis City Schools, and the state and federal governments to include the County Commission as defendants.
More than 120 citizens had either picked up applications or turned them in for appointments to a countywide school board earlier last week.