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On the Ballot: Historic finish to Memphis’ election season
Sharon Renee Williams reacts to Paul Youngs mayoral victory speech at Minglewood Hall Oct. 5, 2023. (Patrick Lantrip/The Daily Memphian file)

Sharon Renee Williams reacts to Paul Youngs mayoral victory speech at Minglewood Hall Oct. 5, 2023. (Patrick Lantrip/The Daily Memphian file)

This year’s election season is (finally!) over after three candidates for Memphis City Council won their runoff contests Thursday, Nov. 16 — and the results were historic for Memphis. 

The city will begin 2024 with a new mayor, Downtown Memphis Commission president Paul Young, who might be getting a pay raise before he even takes office.

Here’s a look at how the 2023 election season shook out, and what’s coming up on the ballot for Memphis voters in 2024.


Who won the Nov. 16 runoffs for Memphis City Council?

Jerri Green won the District 2 council seat over Scott McCormick in a fairly close race, while Michalyn Easter-Thomas handily retained her District 7 seat over challenger Jimmy Hassan.

Pearl Walker captured the District 3 seat, earning just 14 votes more than James Kirkwood, according to unofficial results.

Why are the runoff results historic?

For the first time Memphis history, the City Council will hold a majority female members, with seven women and six men. As Bill Dries reports, the last time the council even came close to a female majority was in 1994, when six women were elected.

From left to right, Memphis City Council runnoff election winners Jerri Green, Pearl Eva Walker and Michalyn Easter-Thomas.

They will take office with other newly elected council members Yolanda Cooper-Sutton and Janika White, along with two returning female members: Rhonda Logan and Jana Swearengen-Washington.


How was turnout for the runoff elections?

City Council races require the winner to earn a majority of votes; if no one earns 50% plus one vote, the top two candidates must go to a runoff election. That’s why the city held runoffs on Nov. 16.

Turnout was low, with just 4.1% of eligible voters heading to the polls, according to unofficial results. In the Oct. 5 election, which included the mayoral race, Memphis saw a 23% voter turnout.

How did election season go?

An overly crowded field of mayoral candidates and residency controversies made for an election season with a few twists and turns. Despite one candidate’s concern for “red flags” on Election Day, the Shelby County Election Commission certified results on Oct. 16.

Memphis mayor-elect Paul Young and the 13 City Council members will be sworn in Monday, Jan. 1, 2024.

Eight City Council members were reelected including Rhonda Logan, Jana Swearengen-Washington, Edmund Ford Sr., Chase Carlisle, Ford Canale, Michalyn Easter-Thomas, JB Smiley and Jeff Warren.


Four members new to the Council will join in January; those members are Jerri Green, Janika White, Yolanda Cooper-Sutton and Pearl Walker. Philip Spinosa previously sat on the City Council from 2016 - 2018; he returns in 2024.

When are the next elections?

Voters will go to the polls three times in 2024. March brings presidential primaries as well as the primaries for Shelby County General Sessions Court Clerk. 

Former Shelby County Commissioner Tami Sawyer recently announced her plan to challenge current clerk Joe Brown in the Democratic primary for that office, her third bid for elected office.

Voter exits the polling location at the Whitehaven Community Center Oct. 5, 2023. (Patrick Lantrip/The Daily Memphian file)

Memphis-area voters will also return to the polls in August 2024 for national and state-level primaries, several local government positions and five Memphis-Shelby County School Board members. 

City voters will also weigh in on at least four referendums, including residential requirements for mayor and City Council candidates, gun control measures and more. 

Depending on how the remaining 2023 City Council sessions go, two more referendums may be added to that August ballot — and they’re big ones. 

Nov. 5, 2024 is the General Election, with decisions for United States president, senators, and federal and state representatives filling the ballot. Collierville and Millington voters will choose their next mayors, respectively, among other local elections.

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