With early voting now in full stride, voters, candidates, party spokespeople, Shelby County Election Commission officials and others are in sprint mode toward the Aug. 2 election.

Early voting numbers so far are higher than the totals at a similar timeframe for the May primary. That uptick was expected, Linda Phillips, the Shelby County administrator of elections, said Wednesday.

According to Shelby County Election Commission totals, 16,294 early voters had cast ballots by the close of polls on Wednesday night. Wednesday’s single-day total was 5,863.

The first day of early voting was July 13 at five locations designated open for an early window in advance of the 22 other locations that started receiving voters on Tuesday (July 17). In the backdrop is a combined lawsuit in which the plaintiffs, the Memphis Branch NAACP and the Shelby County Democratic Party, claimed the Election Commission’s initial early voting plan essentially disenfranchised voters in inner city areas, where African Americans are predominant.

There were 1,603 early voters on Friday (July 13), 906 on Saturday, 1,554 on Monday and 6,368 on Tuesday, according to commission records. Of the 10,431 votes cast by the end of Tuesday, 60.37 percent Democrats, 39.01 percent Republicans and 0.62 percent registered as nonpartisan.

“The overriding thing is that turnout depends on how much voters care about the candidates and the races,” Phillips said. “It’s hard to compare to previous years. It’s about on track for what I expected. We’re on track and we’re staffed for what we need.”

Early voting ends July 28.

Corey Strong, chairman of the Shelby County Democratic Party, said the organization is coordinating with various Democratic campaign organizations to monitor the early-voting locations. There will be a larger, joint effort on Election Day, he said.

“The campaigns themselves are doing that individually…,” Strong said. “We’re also preparing to have a very large apparatus of poll watchers on Election Day itself.

“It is a joint effort between the Democratic Party and the campaigns of all the democratic nominees,” he said.

Strong said anyone with complaints about having access to voting sites can contact the Democratic Party at 901-466-6730.

TSD’s efforts to contact Lee Mills, chairman of the Republican Party of Shelby County, had not yielded a comment by press deadline.



On Monday, the Shelby County Democratic Party and Myron Lowery, chairman emeritus of the Memphis City Council, asked Chancery Court Chancellor JoeDae Jenkins to hold the election commission in contempt for opening one of its early-voting polling places 40 minutes late last Saturday, July 14.

Mississippi Boulevard Christian Church was supposed to be open at 10 a.m. Saturday for early voting, but was not opened until about 10:40 a.m., according to a petition filed by the party.

The petition said it took calls to the election commission and a message sent out over social media to reach Commissioner Norma Lester, who contacted Deputy Administrator Joe Young to open the Mississippi Boulevard site.

In a written statement, Phillips said the late opening was human error. All of the sites have opened on time since then, she said Wednesday.

Pablo Varela, an attorney for the election commission, said a hearing on the matter before Jenkins has been set for 2 p.m. Aug. 9.

On Wednesday, Linda Phillips, Shelby County administrator of elections, said early voting has been going smoothly in the polling facilities. She said some campaign workers have to be reminded to observe the commission’s 100-foot boundary rule.

“Actually, so far it’s been pretty calm, we haven’t had any problems,” Phillips said.

“The problems have been between campaign workers outside the 100 foot line, so I don’t have any jurisdiction out there. They have to work it out or call the police,” Phillips said in a telephone interview with The New Tri-State Defender.

“Two nearly came to blows Monday, and there were reports of some snatching campaign literature out of each other’s hands,” Phillips said.