As the Aug. 2 Election Day dawned, a whopping number already had been posted – 86,002. That, according to Shelby County Election Commission officials, is how many voters opted to cast ballots during the early-voting period.
The tally of early voters surpassed the May Primary Election total by 45,667. For Linda Phillips, Shelby County administrator of elections, the numbers for this election cycle brought to mind the 2010 elections in terms of the large numbers of empty seats to fill.
“What struck me was 93,000 people voted early in that (2010) election,” Phillips said. “There wasn’t an incumbent mayor. There weren’t (a lot of) incumbent commission people. There were people who had been term limited. They had a lot of open seats and that’s similar to the situation now.”
Given the high number of early voters for the Aug. 2 County General, State/Federal Primary and Special Municipal Election, Phillips projected that there would be between 80,000 and 90,000 people casting ballots at the polls.
That is about 30 percent of the eligible voters in Shelby County, she said.
Corey Strong, chairman of the Shelby County Democratic Party, predicted a high turnout. He said three main reasons drove people to the polls in high numbers this time out.
Strong said the changes made regarding the early voting sites and hours angered some Democrats and spurred them to action. He said there is also a general dissatisfaction with the way the largely GOP controlled government is operating on all levels.
“We also have a highly qualified slate of Democratic candidates for voters to consider this year,’’ Strong said.
The local Democratic Party has legal action pending against the election commission over an incident where voters were unable to vote for 45 minutes due to what commission officials called human error. Strong said then that there would be extra close attention on polling places during early voting.
On Wednesday, he said there would be “more of it” on Election Day.
“Between the party and individual campaigns we should have about 80 percent of the polling places covered with poll watchers,” Strong said.
Shelby County Republican Party Chairman Lee Mills had not responded to the TSD’s update call by Wednesday’s press deadline.