Shelby County’s Early Vote Count Leads State

By Bill Dries

Early voter turnout in Shelby County is lagging behind the pace set four years ago during the last presidential general election.

But the turnout is the largest by county in the state so far.

Through the first six days of the early voting period, 88,233 Shelby County citizens voted early in the most popular election cycle in local politics. That is 5,623 fewer voters than cast early ballots through the first five days of the early voting period four years ago.

The only Tennessee county that comes close to the Shelby County turnout so far is Davidson County where through Tuesday, Oct. 23, 66,325 had voted early.

The Shelby County turnout accounted for 10.9 percent of the state’s 604,918 early votes.

Meanwhile, 9th Congressional District candidate George Flinn renewed his call Tuesday, Oct. 23, for a debate with Democratic incumbent Steve Cohen.

“This district has been expanded to over 225,000 new voters,” Flinn said. “They need to know their representative – what they stand for. They need to know something about the person.”

Flinn also criticized Cohen for missing votes in Congress and for his travel as a congressman.

To reinforce the point, the Flinn campaign began airing new television ads Tuesday at noon critical of Cohen for missing votes and his travel.

Cohen has said he will talk debate terms with Flinn when Flinn makes public his federal income tax returns.

“This is a great debate topic,” Flinn responded when told of Cohen’s challenge. “Bring that to a debate and we can talk about it all day long.”

The most up-to-date voter turnout numbers for Shelby County come from the Tennessee Secretary of State’s website. As of press time, the Shelby County Election Commission turnout numbers only went through Saturday, Oct. 20, and were behind the state posting. Through Saturday, Shelby County Election Commission statistics showed that 35.9 percent of the early voters were black and 31.1 percent were white. The remaining 33 percent were “other,” a classification that can mean another race or can also mean the voter did not indicate his or her race on a voter registration form.

More than half, 59.3 percent, of the early voters were women.

The totals include absentee voters as well as early voters.

The most popular early voting site of the 21 in Shelby County has been New Bethel Baptist Church in Germantown followed closely by White Station Church of Christ in East Memphis and Bellevue Baptist Church in Cordova. The turnout numbers through Saturday for each of the three locations ranged from 3,519 to 3,406.

Shelby County’s early voters usually vote at a location close to where they live and the early vote has accounted for roughly a third of the total votes cast, including Election Day, in recent elections.

Turnout as a percentage in the 2012 presidential general election is likely to be boosted a few percentage points because the total number of voters in Shelby County is smaller than it was four years ago due to a purge of voter rolls.

The latest count of registered voters shows 598,118 in Shelby County. That compares to 650,414 voters in the county four years ago.