Decision Day

Presidential race highlights county’s most popular election cycle

By Bill Dries

The last election of 2012 will be one where questions continue to command as much attention if not more than candidates.

Campaigners gather at a Colorado rally over the weekend in preperation of Tuesday’s Election Day. The polls will be open from 7 a.m. to 7 p.m.

(AP Photo/Brennan Linsley)

The polls are open Tuesday, Nov. 6, from 7 a.m. to 7 p.m.

Voters come to the polls in this election to vote in the presidential general election. That is what drives the only election cycle in which more than half of the county’s registered voters consistently show up.

When the polls close Tuesday evening that is expected to be the case again even though the national campaigns of President Barack Obama and Republican challenger Mitt Romney long ago both agreed Romney will carry Tennessee and Obama will carry Shelby County.

Follow the election returns with tweets of the results as they are tabulated @tdnpols after 7 p.m. and Web reports on the early vote results as well as the final unofficial returns at The Daily News Online,

Four years ago, voter turnout was around 62 percent or more than 400,000 voters in Shelby County.

The turnout number was a record, but the percentage was not.

Voter turnout in the early voting period that ended Thursday, Nov. 1, was nearly 22,000 fewer than early voter turnout four years ago. Almost 40 percent of the registered voters in Shelby County voted early this time.

There are 62 races on the ballot in Shelby County including the presidential general election. There are 126 candidates on the ballot, including the vice presidential candidates running on the seven presidential tickets on the Tennessee ballot. Almost half of the races on the ballot – 30 – are one-candidate races that were effectively decided at the filing deadline.

Most of the unopposed incumbents are in the Shelby County legislative delegation to the General Assembly. Both state senators on the ballot, Democrat Jim Kyle and Republican Mark Norris, the leaders of their respective party caucuses in the Senate, are unopposed. All 14 state House seats in Shelby County are on the ballot. Twelve of the 14 incumbents are unopposed.

The August elections in Shelby County were dominated by questions about the process of voting. Problems in which thousands of voters got the wrong district races on their ballots led to a state investigation that concluded similar problems over several years have eroded voter confidence in the election process.

They also led to two lawsuits challenging the results in two races. And the Shelby County Election Commission put elections administrator Richard Holden on probation for six months after an attempt by some commissioners to ask for his resignation was voted down.

Some voters in Shelby County will be looking over their shoulders Tuesday for a different reason. Voters in the six suburban cities and towns in Shelby County will elect school boards for their respective suburban municipal school districts that are still forming.

The results of those races as well as votes in each of the six municipalities in August to form the school districts and increase their sales tax rates to support the school districts could be rendered moot with a ruling still to come from Memphis federal court.

U.S. District Court Judge Samuel “Hardy” Mays has not yet ruled on the lawsuit by Shelby County Commissioners challenging the state laws that set the guidelines for creating the suburban school districts. He has all of the proof from all of the sides in the case.

Mays has said several times from the bench that his decision is to let the elections go forward rather than stop the balloting. But it is with the warning that he could very well void the results of all of the suburban votes when he decides the larger questions of whether the state laws comply with or violate the Tennessee Constitution.

Meanwhile, Shelby County voters will decide four more ballot questions Tuesday.

The campaign for a countywide sales tax hike to be decided by voters in Memphis and the unincorporated county is better financed than that of most of the candidates on the ballot. It is one of two tax hikes voters will decide. The other is a citywide one-cent-a-gallon gas tax hike for public transportation.

Voters in the Kerrville and Lucy areas of northern Shelby County will also vote on whether they will be annexed by the city of Millington.

Millington voters will elect a new mayor in a runoff between Terry Jones and Kenneth Uselton. The winner succeeds Linda Carter, who has been mayor of the city since Richard Hodges resigned following his indictment on corruption charges.

Collierville Mayor Stan Joyner is seeking a second term, facing a challenge from Alderman Tom Allen.

A Tennessee Supreme Court order remains in effect for Election Day in Shelby County requiring election officials to accept city-issued photo library cards as valid voter identification. Before the court order, election officials had been giving voters who presented the library cards a provisional ballot.