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VOL. 129 | NO. 141 | Tuesday, July 22, 2014

Early Voting Draws 673 in First Weekend

By Bill Dries

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(Daily News/Andrew J. Breig)

Democratic political leaders and candidates put a lot of emphasis this past weekend on a strong start to the early voting period in advance of the Aug. 7 elections.

The early voting period opened Friday, July 18, with three Tennessee Supreme Court justices in town as well to campaign for retention in their nonpartisan races at the bottom of the ballot.

Democratic Shelby County Commissioner Henri Brooks touted early voting on opening day by a group called “100 Men for Brooks” in her race for Juvenile Court clerk.

U.S. Rep. Steve Cohen, D-Memphis, had more than 200 people for a Saturday prayer breakfast aimed at those in the crowd voting early immediately after the Overton Square event.

Democratic mayoral nominee Deidre Malone moved a prayer breakfast billed as getting “Souls to the Polls” to a rally outside City Hall Saturday morning featuring Memphis Mayor A C Wharton Jr.

Those at the rally, including several dozen supporters of Democratic nominee for sheriff Bennie Cobb were being led to the Election Commission, including some by Cobb himself several blocks away as the Cohen supporters began to show up to vote early.

Meanwhile, Democratic and Republican candidates and their campaigns worked the same ground at the Festival Latino on Tiger Lane with more Republicans than Democrats at the annual Pleasantville picnic by state Rep. Ron Lollar and Bartlett Alderman Bubba Pleasant.

With all of the speeches and organizing of rides to the only early voting site open at that point and endorsement ballots as well as other political trappings, the Saturday effort drew 261 early voters at the Downtown offices of the Shelby County Election Commission at 157 Poplar Ave.

The first day of early voting Friday drew 412 early voters with another 477 absentee votes for a total of 1,150 early and absentee voters in the first two days of early voting in Shelby County.

Comparisons to earlier elections in the same cycle are difficult.

Four years ago, most of the same county offices were on the August ballot as well as the state and federal primary contests. But it wasn’t a “big ballot” year – the once-every-eight-year ballot that includes judicial races.

With only the Downtown Election Commission site open in the first two days in 2010, a total of 1,432 early and absentee votes were cast. There were 444 early voters on the first day and 330 on the second day.

In the 2006 big ballot August elections, the early voting period began with the Downtown site and 18 satellite sites open instead of just the Downtown site. A total of 8,055 early and absentee voters turned out across the first two days, 4,743 the first day and 3,312 the second day.

Republican campaigns pushed the opening of early voting this campaign season, but not as much as Monday’s opening of voting at 20 satellite locations including those closer to the bulk of the local Republican base in the suburbs.

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