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VOL. 127 | NO. 136 | Friday, July 13, 2012

Polls Set to Open for Early Voting

By Bill Dries

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Shelby County voters start deciding Friday, July 13, general election countywide races for assessor of property, General Sessions Court clerk, district attorney general and a race for a Shelby County Commission seat. The ballot also includes seven races for district seats on the countywide school board.

Early voting for the Aug. 2 election begins Friday. Polling machines are being readied at the Shelby County Election Commission office. 

(Daily News File Photo: Lance Murphey)

Early voting opens Friday Downtown at Shelby County Election Commission headquarters, 157 Poplar Ave. and then expands Monday, July 16, to include 20 satellite locations across Shelby County. For a list of locations and their hours go to www.shelbyvote.com.

Voters from any precinct in Shelby County can vote at any of the locations through July 28, which is the last day of the early voting period. Election day is Aug. 2.

The ballot also includes primary races for the Tennessee Legislature, U.S. Congress and the U.S. Senate.

But the races many political observers will be watching closely have no candidates. They are the six referendums in the six suburban towns and cities on forming municipal school districts.

U.S. District Court Judge Hardy Mays ruled Thursday, July 12, the referendums will go ahead as planned, rejecting a motion by Shelby County Commissioners to stop the ballot questions at least pending a full hearing on the constitutionality of the laws governing how municipal school districts are formed. 

The referendums are expected to boost turnout in the predominantly Republican suburbs outside Memphis which could have a spillover effect in other races.

The election cycle usually includes the primary races although some of the elections don’t feature the pair of statewide U.S. Senate primaries. The general elections usually include only races for General Sessions Court clerk and assessor.

Four years ago, the election cycle drew a 17 percent turnout countywide. Whatever the turnout is this time for the combined early vote and election day count, it should be a higher percentage because of a recent purge of voters from the rolls. For years, election officials – Democratic and Republican – have acknowledged the lack of a purge to remove dead voters or those who have moved and a general voter count that includes inactive voters that has resulted in lower turnout percentages.

But the purge combined with a new state law that took effect in January requiring voters to have a state- or federal-issued photo identification in order to vote has been controversial. And the controversy has split along party lines.

Memphis Mayor A C Wharton Jr. earlier this month announced new photo library cards that he said could be used as identification to vote. State Election Coordinator Mark Goins and Shelby County Election Commission officials have said they will not be accepted. Wharton said the city’s position is backed by a legal opinion from City Attorney Herman Morris. If a voter with a photo library card is turned away, Wharton said, the matter is likely to wind up in court.

In the last 44 years, turnout in the election cycle has topped a third of the county’s voters twice and it has never reached 40 percent during those 11 elections.

Turnout in the August elections of 1992 was 39.4 percent countywide. It was the election of the Democratic “dream team” of Harold Ford Sr., seeking re-election to Congress, his brother John Ford running for General Sessions Court clerk and Michael Hooks Sr. seeking re-election as assessor.

Both Fords won with John Ford deciding after the election to keep his state Senate seat as well. Hooks lost to Harold Sterling, who was the Republican nominee from the first set of county partisan primaries earlier that year. Democrats did not have a companion set of primary elections in the first years of the move to county primaries. Instead, the party’s executive committee endorsed candidates.

Turnout in the August elections of 1976 was 35.8 percent. Jim Sasser and John Jay Hooker were running for Democratic nomination for U.S. Senate statewide. Sasser won and in the November general election upset incumbent Republican Sen. Bill Brock.

Republicans in Memphis had a tight race between Andy Allisandratos and Joe Cooper for the right to run in November against incumbent Democratic Congressman Harold Ford Sr. Allisandratos won. Ford was seeking his second term in Congress and was unopposed in the August Democratic primary.

The local GOP put a lot of effort behind Allisandratos who ran head first in the general election campaign into the first show of political strength by what became known as the Ford machine. Ford won easily.

There were some upsets in the August countywide general election results at the end of hard-fought campaigns that also helped fuel the turnout.

Bill Boyd upset incumbent assessor George LaManna. A special election for Shelby County sheriff following Roy Nixon’s resignation six months earlier to become the first Shelby County mayor was won by Gene Barksdale, who defeated incumbent interim sheriff Billy Ray Schilling and two other candidates.

PROPERTY SALES 51 223 1,152
MORTGAGES 55 189 861
BUILDING PERMITS 149 541 2,593