With early voting still underway at sites throughout the city, reports obtained this week showed that older voters are the largest group to have voted thus far.
According to turnout data released from the Shelby County Election Commission, 21,983 voters had cast their ballots during the early voting period that kicked off September 13. That number is slightly lower than the 23,611 people who came out at the same time in the 2015 election.
Early voting ends Friday, September 28. Election day is October 3.
As for the groups showing up at the polls, 17 percent of those between the ages of 66-75 participated in early voting, making them the largest group to cast ballots. Those over the age of 75 came in second with 13 percent voting early.
The group often referred to as millennials, who range from 25 to 35 years old, are the largest group of the city’s voters. Despite their large voting power, only 1 percent had made it out to the polls for early voting.
Joshua Perkins, president of Memphis Urban League Young Professionals (MULYP), and his team have spent the past few months attempting to engage millennial voters during the election.
“It’s a very disappointing percentage and it lets me know that there is still work to do,” Perkins said of the low turnout.
MULYP has hosted a series of events focused on millennial political engagement, including a city council candidate meet-and-greet, a mayoral forum and most recently a judge forum. Despite what Perkins considered a really good turnout at the events, he acknowledged that more needs to be done to get voters under the age of 35 out to the polls.
“I think it is important for each one to teach one, have those hard conversations with family members and close friends around the importance of voting and the impact it can have on this city,” he said.
“My hope is that the turnout of millennials will increase drastically on Election Day.”
The Election Commission’s report not only broke down early voter turnout by age, it also divided the results by districts.
In District 5, 7.9 percent of the voters had voted early, followed by a 7.1 percent turnout in District 6. District 5 is a two-way race featuring incumbent Worth Morgan and John R. Marek. District 6 pits contenders Perry Bond, Theryn C. Bond, Paul S. Brown, Davin D. Clemons Edmund H. Ford and J. Jaques Hamilton.
The lowest turnout numbers were in District 1, where only 4.6 percent of registered voters had cast early ballots. This district is a three-way race between Sherman Greer (serving after having been appointed) and opponents Dawn Bonner and Rhonda Logan.
“Although the numbers aren’t where we would like them to be for early voting, we are really hoping that more people exercise their right to vote on October 3,” said Ian Randolph, chairman of the NAACP Political Action Committee.
In addition to organizers working to get people to the polls, local Democratic leaders are warning voters about “confusing and misleading” election mailers. The documents at question display a logo claiming to be from the Democratic Party and read, “Re-Elect and Vote for those who have been in the struggle with you.”
Michael Harris, chairman of the Shelby County Democratic Party, said four of the endorsements on the mailer, Cody Fletcher, Ford Canale, Chase Carlisle and Worth Morgan, are candidates also endorsed by the Republican party of Shelby County.
“We urge voters to look carefully at the organizations who are making endorsements or printing ballots. It is unfortunate that there are groups that wish to confuse voters,” Harris wrote in a statement.
“The Shelby County Democratic Party will work to ensure voters can trust local Democrats and will ensure voters can rely on the SCDP for information regarding Democratic candidates during partisan elections. These fake ballots from shadow organizations, even in non- partisan elections, undermine this.”