VOL. 129 | NO. 201 | Wednesday, October 15, 2014
Early Voting Opens in Midterm Elections
By Bill Dries
Early voting opens Wednesday, Oct. 15, across Shelby County as well as Tennessee in the mid-term general elections that are the second most popular election cycle in Shelby County by voter turnout.
The 21 early voting locations are open through Oct. 30 across Shelby County in advance of the Nov. 4 election day.
For a complete list of the locations and hours, go to the Shelby County Election Commission website, shelbyvote.com.
Voters in Shelby County can vote at any of the locations no matter where they live during early voting.
Follow early voting turnout over the next two weeks on Twitter at @tdnpols.
The final election of 2014 is the latest in a midterm cycle that includes the last time more than half of Shelby County voters turned out for a nonpresidential election. That was November 1994, when 56.7 percent of the county’s registered voters participated.
The 1994 general election was a historic midterm election in which Republicans became the majority in the U.S. House and Senate, including an upset of Democratic incumbent U.S. Sen. Jim Sasser of Tennessee by Republican challenger Bill Frist.
Turnout in any election cycle depends heavily on the races on the ballot and the interest they generate among voters. Because midterm elections, those in the even-numbered years between presidential election years, always involve at least one statewide race of some kind, the turnout tends to be higher.
Early voting begins Wednesday as the campaign of Tennessee Gov. Bill Haslam has started running a new statewide television ad in his re-election bid.
The ad is a departure from the attack ads dominating the airtime in Tennessee’s other statewide race, the U.S. Senate race between incumbent Republican Lamar Alexander and Democratic challenger Gordon Ball. And in the Memphis market, there is a healthy dose of attack ads from the Arkansas U.S. Senate race between incumbent Democrat Mark Pryor and Republican challenger Tom Cotton.
A group of children tout Haslam’s education initiatives in the television spots that define a different, more subtle role for Haslam. Haslam has said he sees his re-election campaign as a way of encouraging Republican turnout in other races and for other issues.
The governor’s race is at the top of the ballot, but Haslam faces only token opposition from Democratic nominee Charles V. “Charlie” Brown.
Brown is a retiree from Oakdale, Tenn., who said of Haslam in an open letter earlier this year that he would “like to strap his butt to the (electric) chair and give him about half the jolt.”
Democratic Party leaders and the rest of its establishment didn’t back any candidate in the August Democratic primaries, and Brown has complained that the state party hasn’t offered or given him any help.
In Memphis, U.S. Rep. Steve Cohen suggested this month that Democrats vote for independent candidate for governor John Jay Hooker instead. Hooker was the 1970 Democratic nominee for governor.
Cohen suggested voting for Hooker instead of Brown as part of raising the bar for passage of a state constitutional amendment that would give the Tennessee Legislature the power to limit or bar abortions, including in cases of rape and incest.
That and the other three proposed amendments to the Tennessee Constitution on the same ballot require a simple majority of the total number of votes cast in the general election race for governor. So the more votes cast in the race for governor, the more votes would be required to pass the amendments.
In the closing weeks leading up to early voting, some politicos on social media have taken that to mean a citizen’s votes on the amendments won’t count unless they vote in the governor’s race. That is not true.
Also debuting on television this week were ads for the six ballot questions to allow the sale of wine in grocery stores effective July 2016.
Four years ago, turnout in the same election cycle was 38.5 percent in Shelby County, or 232,239 of the county’s 603,722 voters.
The 2010 ballot’s top draw was a referendum question, the first metro consolidation charter proposal in 39 years in Shelby County.
It passed narrowly in the city but failed in the county outside the city of Memphis.
Certification of the referendum results was delayed by a federal court order as consolidation proponents contested the constitutionality of the dual referendum requirement in state law.
Ultimately the requirement was upheld and the consolidation bid failed.
After winning a three-way primary in August 2010 to become the Republican nominee for governor, Haslam had no problem defeating Democratic nominee Mike McWherter in the November statewide election, although McWherter carried Shelby County.
And Cohen easily held off Republican challenger Charlotte Bergmann, who is challenging Cohen again this year.
In the 2010 race for the open 8th Congressional District seat, Republican Stephen Fincher of Frog Jump beat Democratic nominee Roy Herron, who switched from the race for governor to the race for the seat being given up by Democratic incumbent John Tanner.