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VOL. 127 | NO. 35 | Tuesday, February 21, 2012

Democratic Court Clerk Primary Tops Early Voting

By Bill Dries

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The winner so far on the March 6 election day ballot in Shelby County headlined by the Republican presidential primary appears to the Democratic primary for General Sessions Court clerk.

So far, early voter turnout is greater in the countywide Democratic primaries, which include a hotly contested five-way primary race for General Sessions Court clerk.

Early voting in advance of the March 6 Election Day expands Tuesday, Feb. 21, to 20 satellite locations across Shelby County. The early voting period runs through Tuesday, Feb. 28.

For a list of all early voting sites and their hours, visit the Shelby County Election Commission website, www.shelbyvote.com.

Through Saturday, 1,003 citizens had voted early or by absentee ballot. Of that number, 676 – or 67.4 percent – voted in the Democratic primaries topped by the presidential primary in which President Barack Obama is running unopposed.

The remaining 327 – or 32.6 percent – voted in the Republican primary.

There are no general election contests on the ballot.

The vote totals for the first four days of the early voting period at election commission headquarters Downtown show a light turnout for what is traditionally an election cycle that draws a low overall voter turnout.

GOP voters are casting ballots not only for one of nine presidential contenders, but they are also voting for a slate of state at-large and Shelby County delegates to the Republican convention in Tampa, Fla., in August.

The names of the presidential contenders on the Tennessee ballot reflect the rapid changes in the race to the convention. Still on the Tennessee ballot are Texas Gov. Rick Perry, former Louisiana Gov. Buddy Roemer and U.S. Rep. Michelle Bachmann of Minnesota. Roemer is still in. Perry and Bachmann are out of the race.

Mitt Romney, Newt Gingrich, Ron Paul and Rick Santorum are also on the ballot.

But Paul Boyd, co chairman of the local Romney campaign said he doesn’t expect to see them focus on the state until the Arizona and Michigan primaries are decided on Feb. 28 or it’s clear who will win in each state.

“At this point, a lot of people aren’t aware that it is Tennessee’s time to vote because of the way the calendar is set up and what has gone on in other places,” said Boyd, who is also Shelby County Probate Court clerk. “I think we are going to find out what kind of organizations the various campaigns have over the next two weeks. … I think a lot of people in our community are split between Mitt Romney and Rick Santorum.”

Santorum, a former U.S. senator from Pennsylvania, attends a tea party forum in Chattanooga this weekend, and Gingrich has a $2,500-a-head fundraiser set for Franklin, Tenn., later this month.

Santorum doesn’t have a slate of delegates on the Tennessee primary ballot. But winning 10 percent or more of the popular vote would lead to the ability to have his supporters in the 58-member Tennessee delegation to the August Republican National Convention in Tampa.

The March 6 primaries in Tennessee and the other Super Tuesday states are the beginning of the move away from the earlier “winner-take-all” primary states.

Gingrich, the former U.S. House speaker, is betting a lot on the Southern states, including Tennessee, that vote on what is known as Super Tuesday. His home state of Georgia is the second biggest prize in terms of delegates, just ahead of Tennessee. And Gingrich has said he must win in Georgia or his drive for the nomination would be weakened.

Santorum was campaigning in Georgia this past weekend.

Ohio has the largest amount of delegates up for grabs on Super Tuesday and the candidates are expected to devote a lot of resources to winning there.

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