Shelby County voters nixed all three proposed referendums on Tuesday’s ballot, including the controversial Instant Runoff Voting measure that would have eliminated the need for separate runoff elections.
That question, marked question number two, was defeated with 104,431 voting against and 62,316 voting for the measure, according to complete but unofficial returns from the Shelby County Election Commission.
Question number one, which would have expanded the number of terms an elected official could serve consecutively from two to three, was defeated as well, with 101,607 voting no and 67,220 voting yes.
That item also created controversy when former mayor Dr. Willie W. Herenton said the Memphis City Council had crafted it in such as way as to prevent him from running for another term as mayor.
Herenton has served four terms and recently announced his intent to run for mayor again. He had said there was a conspiracy to prevent him from doing so.
Question number three, which would have eliminated runoff elections altogether, was defeated with 99,183 voting against and 77,243 voting for the ordinance.
Earlier Tuesday night, before returns came in, there was an air of excitement at the National Civil Rights Museum, where a watch party was in full swing beginning at 6 p.m. Banquet tables offered everything from hot wings and specially prepared sausages to cheese and crackers.
One of the halls offered table seating before a projection screen that showed results courtesy of CNN. Another screen offered split images from a half dozen or more other news stations.
All of it was set to a mixture of silky soul music provided by a DJ at the top of the winding stairway inside the museum.
Brian Clay, host of a podcast called “The Brian Clay Chronicles,” called the excitement in this year’s mid-term election, “absolutely incredible.”
“In all my years, going back to when I was a child…I have not seen this kind of turnout in a long time,” he said. “Obviously when Obama ran there was a major turnout but I think then the African-American community had a motive. We had a mission.
“But for a mid-term election for us to come out like this is so incredible,” he said.
The Shelby County voter turnout amounted to 50.5 percent – 292,620 ballots cast. It was the first time a majority of eligible voters had voted in a non-presidential election in 24 years (1994).
As far as the referendums, Clay said he had spoken to many people about the election but very little had been said about them. He supported the repealing of the Instant Runoff Voting measure.
“I do believe in one person one vote,” he said. “But if it doesn’t happen, so be it…I think we still can disagree without being disagreeable.”
Clay said one good thing about this year’s mid-term election is it dispelled a myth about black voters.
“We tore up the stereotype,” he said. “Some people think the African-American community is apathetic about coming out to vote unless it’s someone like a Harold Ford or Willie Herenton, but I think we busted that myth tonight.”
The Rev. Earle Fisher, pastor of Abyssinian Missionary Baptist Church, said he was against all of the referendums on Tuesday’s ballot.
“My rationale behind it is they seem to be power grabs by people who are in power right now who don’t want to relinquish that power,” said Fisher, who pushed voter registration and participation though Up the Vote 901, a non-partisan initiative.
Shelby County Commissioner Willie Brooks said Democrats seemed to be doing well across the country and that as long as they stick to the main issues of health care and education as well as public safety, they have a winning combination.
“It appears that we are picking up across the country as far as House seats. However, in Tennessee Bill Lee was declared the winner (in the governor’s race) and I was looking for a closer race between (former Nasville Mayor Phil) Bredesen and (Seventh District Congresswoman) Blackburn.”
Tammie Johnson said she voted the straight Democratic ticket and did so early.
“I knew it was going to be a huge turnout, so I wanted to get ahead of the crowd. I wanted to make sure my voice is heard.”
Johnson said she is for positive change and for keeping things moving in a positive direction. She was very hopeful about the changes that were possible on Tuesday night before returns started to come in.
And while Bredesen, fell short, Johnson said she was most impressed by his campaign.
“I liked his approach and I think that he was saying he was willing to work with all parties and that’s what we need.”
PHOTO GALLERY (Tyrone P. Easley)