Turnout Growing With 2 Days to Vote Before Aug. 2

By Bill Dries

With two days left in the early voting period, 63,244 citizens had cast ballots in Shelby County in advance of the Aug. 2 election day. The last day of the early voting period is Saturday, July 28.

Through Wednesday, the last day with available primary participation numbers as of press time, early voters participating in the state and federal Democratic primaries outnumbered those voting in the Republican primaries 32,673 to 21,497.

The turnout through Thursday of more than 63,000 compares to 65,803 at the same point in the same election cycle in 2014 and 74,471 in 2010. The 2010 and 2014 totals reflect 21 early voting sites compared to 27 in the current election. Five sites were open the first three days of early voting this year compared to one site open the first two days in 2010 and 2014.

Betty Robinson uses her candidate’s sign to keep the sun out of her eyes while campaigning at the Mississippi Blvd. Church polling location on Wednesday July 25, 2018. Early voting wraps up on Saturday with a number of key local primaries up for grabs. (Daily News/Jim Weber)

Follow the early voting turnout numbers through Saturday @tdnpols, www.twitter.com/tdnpols.

A list of early voting sites and their hours can be found at www.shelbyvote.com, the website of the Shelby County Election Commission.

Candidates in the county general election as well as contenders in the state and federal primaries will be blitzing the county and state on the last weekend for campaigning before election day on Thursday, Aug. 2.

The county general election ballot is topped by the race for Shelby County mayor between Democrat Lee Harris and Republican David Lenoir.

The state and federal primary ballots are topped by primaries for Tennessee governor and U.S. Senate.

Republicans statewide have a four-way primary for governor between U.S. Rep. Diane Black, former state Economic and Community Development commissioner Randy Boyd, Franklin businessman Bill Lee and state House Speaker Beth Harwell.

Democrats have a two-way primary between former Nashville mayor Karl Dean and Ripley State Rep. Craig Fitzhugh.

The winners in each advance to the Nov. 6 general election ballot.

The race for the U.S. Senate seat has already moved into general election campaign territory, with presumptive Democratic nominee and former Gov. Phil Bredesen facing only token opposition in the primary, as is presumptive Republican nominee and U.S. Rep. Marsha Blackburn in her primary.

The top three precincts through Wednesday where early voters live all had majority Republican totals.

Precinct 57-00, which votes on election day at Second Baptist Church in East Memphis, had a turnout of 20.77 percent of the 4,578 voters who live in the precinct. Of that total 659 voted in the Republican primary and 277 in the Democratic primary.

In 55-02, which votes at Evangel Church, 17.2 percent of the 3,335 voters there had cast early ballots. Of that, 367 voted in the Republican primary and 203 in the Democratic primary.

The 80-02 precinct that votes at Opera Memphis on Humphreys Boulevard had a closer partisan divide with 356 voting in the Republican primary compared to 231 in the Democratic primary for an overall turnout of 15.4 percent of the 3,811 voters in the precinct.

Precinct 79-02, which votes at Havenview Middle School in Whitehaven, remained overwhelmingly Democratic in its turnout with 439 voting in the Democratic primary and eight in the Republican primary. Its overall turnout has jumped this week from where it was through the first whole week of the 14-day voting period.

Havenview went from the ninth highest percentage by precinct through Saturday to the fourth highest with a 15.08 percent turnout of its 2,970 voters through Wednesday.

Still other precincts showed Democrats and Republicans nearly even. In precinct 91-02, which votes at Bert Ferguson Community Center in Cordova, 227 early voters participated in the Democratic primary and 223 in the Republican.

In nearby 91-01, which votes on election day at Cordova Community Center, 238 early voters participated in the Democratic primary and 222 in the Republican.

The tight margin continued into some East Memphis precincts including 67-01 that votes at McWherter Senior Center with 171 early voters in the Republican primary compared to 151 in the Democratic primary.

In 44-01 at St. Michael Catholic School, the difference between the Republican majority and the Democratic minority went from 30 through the first week of the voting period to 64 through Wednesday with a 12.2 percent overall turnout.

Turnout in the six predominantly Republican suburban towns and cities in Shelby County reflected both lopsided margins and respectable Democratic turnout.

In Bartlett 3, which votes on election day at Bartlett Baptist Church, the 13.4 percent overall turnout for the precinct through Tuesday showed 367 voting Republican and 61 Democratic.

In Millington 1, which votes at Baker Community Center, 417 early voters cast their ballots in the Republican primary, 204 in the Democratic primary.

Early voting turnout in the 13 County Commission districts reflected the commission’s current split of seven Democrats and six Republicans.

Through Wednesday, the split between Democrats and Republicans based on the primary they selected to vote in showed the closest margin was in District 5 where incumbent and commission chairwoman Heidi Shafer is term-limited and not seeking re-election.

The county general election race for her seat is between Republican Richard Morton and Democrat Michael Whaley. Through Tuesday, 9.8 percent of the district’s 36,503 voters had voted early.

A total of 1,897 District 5 early voters had cast ballots in the Republican state and federal primaries and 1,669 in the Democratic primaries.

If the closeness of the divide in the state and federal primaries translates to which nominees voters pick in the county general election, the District 5 commission race could determine whether the commission has a Democratic majority of seven or eight.

But that is a big assumption in a process where there can be multiple reasons voters make their election choices.

In County Commission District 7, 2,847 voters had chosen the Democratic state and federal primary ballot compared to 548 in the Republican primary. The District 7 commission race is between Democrat Tami Sawyer and Republican Sam Goff.

Across party lines, a majority of at least eight new county commissioners will be elected because of the departure of five incumbents barred from seeking re-election by term limits, two others who chose not to run for re-election after a single term on the 13-member body, and the defeat of incumbent commissioner Steve Basar in the May Republican primary by Brandon Morrison.