VOL. 127 | NO. 43 | Friday, March 2, 2012
Race for Tennessee
By Bill Dries
Shelby County Republicans responded during the just-closed early voting period to a still-undecided race to be the party’s national challenger to Democratic president Barack Obama in November.
Republican presidential candidate Mitt Romney greets supporters in Michigan. The GOP race is heating up in Tennessee as Romney, Newt Gingrich and Rick Santorum vie for the state’s delegates.
(Photo: AP Photo/Gerald Herbert)
And Memphis Democrats responded to a hotly contested five-way race to decide the Democratic nominee for General Sessions Court clerk, one of only two countywide offices the party currently holds in Shelby County.
Together, voters in both parties contributed to a turnout of more than 21,000 early ballots in the voting period that ended Tuesday, Feb. 28, in advance of the March 6 Election Day.
The 21,355 early vote total was less than the early voter turnout of more than 30,000 for the 2008 Tennessee presidential primary in Shelby County, which was held in February of that year. But it was twice the early voter turnout countywide for the 2004 presidential primary.
The 2008 presidential contest was an open race with no incumbent. The 2004 race for the White House was a successful re-election bid by incumbent Republican President George W. Bush.
The end of early voting Tuesday signaled the beginning of campaigns by Republican presidential contenders Mitt Romney, Rick Santorum and Newt Gingrich to claim some or all of Tennessee’s delegates to the August Republican national convention in Tampa.
Television ads for all three candidates as well as a set of attack ads have been running in the Memphis market for several weeks.
Early voting ended the same day the Michigan and Arizona presidential primaries were decided. Those are the last two primaries before the March 6 set of “Super Tuesday” primaries, which includes Tennessee. Like Michigan, Tennessee is not a winner-take-all state. The state’s delegates to the GOP convention in Tampa will be apportioned based on vote totals per congressional district.
The 21,355 early voters were 3.5 percent of the 611,000 registered voters in Shelby County.
Most of the early voters – 54 percent – voted the Republican primary ballot topped by the Tennessee presidential primary, compared to the 46 percent who voted the Democratic ballot.
There are no general election contests on the ballot.
Of the 21 early voting sites, Bishop Byrne High School in Whitehaven had the highest turnout, with 1,505 voters. Collierville Church of Christ and Bellevue Baptist Church ranked next with just less than 1,500 voters each.
A percentage of early voters cast ballots in the precinct where they are assigned for Election Day. The highest percentage turnout for that category was in the Glenview Community Center precinct, 31-04, which was an early voting site, and the East Career and Technology Center at East High School, 44-04.
Each precinct barely broke 10 percent of their voters – the only two precincts to hit double-digit percentages.
The percentages are one way of gauging where the early voters came from, but because the size of precincts can vary widely, politicos also look at the precinct turnout by number.
By the early voter count, the Lakeland 1 precinct that votes on Election Day at First Baptist Church of Lakeland was tops with 314 early voters. The second-highest total was the 269 early voters at Millington 2, which votes on Election Day at the Millington Civic Center. Third highest was 80-02, which votes at Opera Memphis on Wolf River Parkway. It logged 265 early voters.