New Complaint Arises As End of Early Voting Nears

By Bill Dries

With one week left in the early voting period, voter turnout before the Aug. 2 election day seems likely to surpass 50,000, or about 10 percent of Shelby County’s voters.

The estimate is based on a conservative projection of 4,000 early voters a day for the last six days in the voting period, which runs through Saturday, July 28.

And a candidate on the ballot says he’s found more than 1,000 voters who got the wrong ballot.

Steve Ross, the Democratic nominee in the Shelby County Commission race on the ballot, is alleging just more than 1,000 early voters got the wrong ballot. He matched the list of participating voters with the state maps showing new district lines in state legislative and Congressional races to come up with the numbers. He found 657 of the early voters cast ballots in the Democratic primaries and 340 voted in the Republican primaries. Most of the wrong ballots – 867 by this count – were in the state House races.

“There’s no such thing as a perfect election. They are run by human beings and things are going to happen,” Shelby County Republican party chairman Justin Joy said generally of the election problems Friday on the WKNO television program “Behind the Headlines.” “I do think that the Shelby County Election Commission works very hard and does a very good job.”

Shelby County Democratic party chairman Van Turner acknowledged he’s been approached by some political leaders looking for a bipartisan statement from both party leaders on election problems.

“We had seen some issues in the past. We had hoped they had been corrected,” he said on the same broadcast in which he appeared with Joy. Turner also said he has heard concerns about the “nonchalance” election officials are expressing in dealing with the problems.

“We need to address the issues as soon as we can,” he said.

Meanwhile, daily early voter turnout through Saturday, July 21, peaked at 5,055 on the first day that early voting expanded to 20 satellite locations and for the next four weekdays never dipped below 4,231 voters.

Turnout for Saturday, July 21, was 2,413 bringing the turnout for the voting period so far to 25,992 or 4.5 percent of the 583,918 voters in Shelby County.

Shelby County Election Commission statistics show everything but who voters selected.

Those statistics through Saturday show 54.5 percent voted in the Republican primaries on the ballot and 43.1 percent voted in the Democratic primaries with the remaining 2.4 percent voting in the non-partisan general elections only. More than half of the early voters – 55.7 percent – are women.

By race, 45.4 percent of the early voters are white and 25.8 percent are black. The remaining 28.8 percent are listed as “other” – a category that indicates either another racial classification or that the voter did not indicate his or her race on their voter registration form.

In the same election cycle four years ago, 67.6 percent of the early voters cast ballots in the Democratic primaries and 31.6 percent voted in Republican primaries with less than one percent voting in the general election only.

The 2008 early voting statistics also showed 43.2 percent were black and 37.5 percent white with 19.3 percent other. Women accounted for just less than 60 percent of the 2008 early vote.

While it was the same election cycle, the August 2008 ballot did not feature the countywide school board races on the ballot this year or the set of six referendums on municipal school districts in the six suburban towns and cities outside Memphis.