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VOL. 128 | NO. 226 | Tuesday, November 19, 2013

Early Voting Turnout Tops 7,500

By Bill Dries

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(Daily News File/Lance Murphey)

Early voting in the last elections of 2013 in Shelby County ended Saturday, Nov. 16, with more than 7,500 Memphians casting early votes in the citywide referendum on a half percent sales tax hike.

Of the 7,624 voters, 1,093 voted in the special general election for Tennessee House District 91, the other race on the Memphis ballot within a smaller area of Memphis.

Election day in both races is Thursday, Nov. 21, from 7 a.m. to 7 p.m. at several hundred polling places across the city.

The 7,624 early votes in the referendum amounts to 1.8 percent of the 417,174 citizens on the voter rolls in Memphis.

There were 1,093 early votes in the state House race between Democratic nominee Raumesh Akbari and Libertarian candidate Jim Tomasik.

The three largest single-day turnout numbers were the last three days of the early voting period at 16 sites across the city. The Saturday, Nov. 16, turnout of 1,678 was the largest of any single day followed closely by 1,578 on Friday, the day before, and then followed by Thursday at 1,575.

The largest turnout by location was the 912 early voters at White Station Church of Christ in East Memphis followed by the 705 early voters at Riverside Baptist Church in South Memphis and 697 early voters at Berclair Church of Christ.

Daily turnout rose during the first of several forums on the citywide sales tax hike. The forums continue this week with a debate between Memphis City Council member Shea Flinn and former Shelby County Schools board member Kenneth Whalum Jr. at the Memphis Rotary Club Tuesday, Nov. 19, at the University Club.

Flinn was among those who proposed the sales tax hike as a way to fund a prekindergarten expansion within the city of Memphis. The half percent would generate an estimated $47 million in new revenue for the city. By the wording of the referendum question, approximately $30 million of that would go toward a prekindergarten expansion with the use of the money governed by a prekindergarten commission appointed by Memphis Mayor A C Wharton Jr. and confirmed by the council. Whatever other revenue there is after the expansion costs goes to roll back the city’s property tax rate, again, under terms of the wording of the ballot question.

Whalum is an opponent of the sales tax hike saying the sales tax is regressive and there are other ways to fund such an expansion. Whalum has also expressed doubt that the revenue would be used for the purposes set out in the ballot question.

Flinn is part of an organized campaign to specifically approve the tax hike that includes yard signs as well as television and radio advertising.

There is no similar organized opposition to the tax. But city voters were the largest part of a voting block that just a year ago rejected a countywide sales tax hike proposal in which the voting base was city voters and voters in unincorporated Shelby County.

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