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VOL. 127 | NO. 148 | Tuesday, July 31, 2012

Shelby County’s Early Voting Tops 62K

By Bill Dries

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As Shelby County Election Commission officials admitted there was a problem with early voting, turnout by early voters soared for the voting period that ended Saturday, July 28, in advance of Thursday’s election day.

David Pickler greets voter Stephanie Cross during early voting outside New Bethel Baptist Church in Germantown. More than 62,000 citizens, or 10.7 percent of the county’s voters, cast early ballots. Election day is Thursday.

(Photo: Lance Murphey)

The highest daily total for the early voting period was Friday, July 27, when 8,340 citizens cast votes at 21 locations across Shelby County.

And in the closing days of the early voting period, there was a surge of voters in the Democratic primary contests on the ballot. At one point earlier, Republican primary voters outnumbered Democratic voters and those voting in the nonpartisan general election only by 10 percentage points.

The final turnout numbers for early voting, released Sunday by the Election Commission, show 62,601 citizens – 10.7 percent of Shelby County’s 584,443 voters, voted early. The number of total voters in Shelby County continues to change on a daily basis although the deadline for voter registration for the August ballot has already passed. A number posted earlier in the day Sunday before the final numbers was larger by 40 voters.

Of the more than 62,000 early voters, an even percentage – 48.9 percent cast ballots in the Republican primary and in the Democratic primary. The remaining 2.2 percent chose not to vote in either primary and voted only on the general election races and ballot questions. By race, 40.2 percent were white and 30.5 percent were black. The remaining 29.3 percent were “other” meaning another race or a voter who did not indicate a race on his or her voter registration form. Women were the majority of early voters – 58.2 percent.

Early voter turnout by the election day precincts voters live in was heaviest by precinct percentage in Germantown and Collierville, confirming that referendums in all six suburban towns and cities on forming municipal school districts was a major factor in early voter turnout.

State Senate Republican leader Mark Norris of Collierville had a more informal way of gauging turnout last week at a rally in Arlington for the municipal school district cause. He did a straw poll of the 400 people who gathered near the Arlington town square and donated to a political action committee on the issue in the process. By his count, half of the 400 had already voted early.

“What we began with public chapter 1 back in the beginning of 2011 was designed to help facilitate the vote for the citizens of the city of Memphis. They got to vote and you should have the right to vote as well,” Norris said from a backyard stage on a hot evening as those at the rally ate barbecue and hamburgers under a tent. “If you’ve waited to vote until now, don’t wait too long. Don’t miss this opportunity to be a part of history.”

The highest percentage of early voter turnout was the Lakeland 1 precinct, which votes at First Baptist Church of Lakeland. Of the 5,635 voters in the precinct, 1,554 – or 27.6 percent – voted early. That was also the largest number of voters by election day precinct during early voting.

Because precincts can vary in numbers, percentages aren’t always the truest indicator of what wins elections – the number of voters. But the largest numbers of voters by precinct during early voters for this election were in the suburban towns and cities.

Each of the 11 election day precincts with a Germantown prefix voted between 18.3 percent and 25.9 percent of their totals during early voting. The 1,052 voters from the Germantown 4 precinct at Farmington Elementary School were the third highest precinct early vote total of the period.

Seven of the nine precincts with a Collierville prefix voted 19.3 percent to 25.5 percent of their voters during early voting. The 1,172 voters from the Collierville 1 precinct, which votes on election day at Collierville Elementary School, were the second highest precinct early vote total of the period.

In the 12 Bartlett prefix precincts, two had a turnout above 15 percent.

Within the city of Memphis, the highest percentage precinct turnout was the 18.7 percent – or 276 of 1,478 voters in precinct 31-4, which votes on election day at Glenview Community Center. Glenview was also an early voting site.

The highest number turnout at a Memphis precinct was the 585 early voters in 75-11, which votes on election day at Geeter Middle School in southwest Memphis. The turnout was 13.6 percent of the 4,317 voters in the precinct.

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