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VOL. 129 | NO. 210 | Tuesday, October 28, 2014

Early Vote Turnout Lags Behind 2010

By Bill Dries

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Early voting turnout in advance of the Nov. 4 Election Day was running about 17,000 voters behind the early vote turnout four years ago for the same election cycle through the second and final weekend in the early voting period.

Through Saturday, Oct. 25, 39,439 citizens had voted early in Shelby County compared to 57,067 early voters at the same point in the 2010 early voting period.

(Daily News File/Andrew J. Breig)

The October 2010 early voting period in advance of the Nov. 2 Election Day that year featured 21 early voting sites across Shelby County just as the current early voting period does.

The current period runs through Thursday and early voter turnout usually spikes during those final days of the period.

Early voting turnout four years ago totaled 109,232 in a ballot that featured a race for governor to succeed term-limited Democratic Gov. Phil Bredesen, a proposed charter to consolidate Memphis and Shelby County governments and Bartlett Mayor Keith McDonald and Germantown Mayor Sharon Goldsworthy each seeking re-election.

Along the way, suburban voters outside Memphis crushed the most serious bid toward metro consolidation in 39 years.

Overall turnout, including Election Day, in 2010 was 35 percent in Shelby County.

This year, the winner of the governor’s race four years ago – Republican Bill Haslam – is seeking re-election against token Democratic opposition. Republican incumbent U.S. Sen. Lamar Alexander is being challenged by Democrat Gordon Ball in the other statewide race.

There are four proposed amendments to the Tennessee Constitution that have attracted just as much if not more attention than the Senate race.

Voters in most but not all of Shelby County are also voting on referendums proposing to allow the sale of wine in food stores.

McDonald is running unopposed for another term as Bartlett mayor. But Goldsworthy is not seeking re-election in Germantown prompting a lively race for the open position by Mike Palazzolo and George Brogdon.

Races for the Tennessee Legislature feature two races for rare open seats in the Shelby County legislative delegation to Nashville. District 30 is a special general election match-up between Democrat Sarah Kyle and Republican George Flinn for the State Senate seat given up by Kyle’s husband Jim Kyle, who was elected a Chancery Court judge in August. Democrat Lee Harris and Republican Jim Finney are running in State Senate District 29 after Harris upset incumbent Ophelia Ford in the August Democratic primary.

The results of the November election in District 29 will mark the first time in 40 years that a member of the Ford family has not held the Senate seat.

Determining what and who voters might be choosing is a bit more challenging in the general election in which there are no primaries. Because there are no primaries, voters are not declaring a party in order to vote in the primaries.

Shelby County Election Commission statistics, however, show 54.8 percent of the early voters so far are women. And 46.9 percent are white, 22 percent are black and 31.1 percent are “other,” a category that includes voters who chose not to indicate their race on voter registration forms.

By age, 45.3 percent are ages 65 and over and 27.2 percent are between 55 and 64 with 1.9 percent ages 18-24.

The statistics also offer a look at turnout by the Election Day precincts the voters live in. And by that gauge, the turnout so far appears to be heaviest in the suburbs.

The highest precinct turnout by percentage is the 20.9 percent – or 427 of 2,043 – who had turned out through Saturday in Ger09, the Germantown precinct that votes on Election Day at New Bethel Baptist Church, 8816 Poplar Pike, which is also an early voting site.

But the percentages alone don’t tell the complete story of where voter turnout is heaviest because of the wide variances in the sizes of precincts.

By the number of voters, the largest turnout by precinct through Saturday was the 688 voters in Ger04 who vote at Farmington Elementary School, 2085 Cordes Road, also in Germantown. That was followed by the 581 early voters from Lak01, one of the two Lakeland precincts that votes on Election Day at First Baptist Church of Lakeland, 4500 Canada Road and the 579 voters in Col04, the Collierville precinct that votes at Collierville Christian Church, 740 Gunnison Drive, on Election Day.

By contrast, the highest turnout by precinct within the city of Memphis was just over 400. Through Saturday, 426 citizens in 80-02, which votes on Election Day at Opera Memphis, 6745 Wolf River Parkway, had voted early. In neighboring 81-01, which votes on Election Day at Christian Brothers High School, 5900 Walnut Grove Road, 407 has cast early ballots.

The highest percentage from Memphis voters based on the Election Day precinct they live in was the 12.5 percent – or 327 early voters in 57-00, which votes at Second Baptist Church, 4680 Walnut Grove Road.

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