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Early voting for local, state, national general election begins on Oct. 19

By , Daily Memphian Updated: October 19, 2022 6:35 AM CT | Published: October 18, 2022 8:37 PM CT

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For most of Shelby County’s voters, the most exciting thing about the ballot that opens early voting might be the new voting system.

That includes how many voters choose to use the new voting machines with a paper trail and how many choose to vote with a hand-marked paper ballot.

Ballot Basics: Early Voting Oct. 19-Nov. 3

Meanwhile, there has been a lot of movement in the still forming fields for the city election in 2023 — most notably the field for Memphis mayor — to distract voters.

The ballot that voters begin marking Wednesday, Oct. 19, is topped by a single statewide race: Tennessee governor. The race is between Republican incumbent Bill Lee and Democratic challenger Dr. Jason Martin of Nashville, as well as eight independent candidates.

Martin claimed the Democratic nomination in the August statewide primary over Memphis City Council member JB Smiley Jr. in an unusually hard-fought and close primary with Smiley losing by 1,468 votes.

Topping that with a general election race for governor that close may be a tall order politically.

There are also four proposed amendments to the Tennessee Constitution including a controversial “right to work” amendment and another amendment that would eliminate the last vestiges of slavery from the constitution that has drawn bipartisan support.

Political Roundup: Emancipation Sunday urges voters to remove slavery from state constitution

By the state’s laws for such amendments, they are approved by voters if they get the votes of a simple majority of the number of voters who cast ballots in the race for Tennessee governor.

The set of four have not drawn a lot of strategizing by politicos that past amendments have seen.

Some politicos have argued that not voting in the governor’s race, but voting for or against the amendments could make it easier for a given amendment to pass or fail.

There is also the enduring question about whether voters first encountering the complex language of the amendments at a polling place will understand what they are voting on.

There will also be speculation about voters voting the same way for all four as a reaction to making a decision on something they didn’t anticipate during the estimated three minutes it is expected to take them to cast their ballots.

Proposed amendment would ban slavery as punishment for a crime

This same election cycle in 2018 marked the first time since 1994 that a majority of voters in the county had turned out to vote in a nonpresidential general election locally.

The 51.1% turnout was 295,810 of the county’s 561,701 voters. That total included 190,956 early and absentee voters in the same 14-day period at 27 early voting sites.

The early and absentee votes four years ago were 64.5% of the total vote.

It’s a trend seen across recent election cycles in Shelby County for low turnout ballots with primaries like the August ballot and majority turnouts like the 2020 presidential general election.

Both saw robust early voting followed by a flat election day in terms of turnout that rearranged the vote instead of substantially increasing it.

Bartlett mayoral candidates discuss their visions for the suburb

The turnout for this election cycle between 2002 and 2014 has ranged from 34.3% to 46.6% making it the healthiest turnout consistently after presidential general elections but healthier than the turnout for Memphis City elections in recent years or any ballot led by primary elections.

Much of the national attention will be on congressional mid-term races. Memphis voters will largely be spectators to what happens to majority status in the U.S. House and U.S. Senate.

Neither of the state’s Senate seats are on the ballot this year.

Democratic U.S. Rep. Steve Cohen of Memphis is seeking re-election and faces perennial challenger Republican Charlotte Bergmann and three independent candidates.

Republican U.S. Rep. David Kustoff of Germantown faces Democratic challenger Lynette Williams, who has run for a variety of offices in recent years, as well as two independent candidates.

Transitions and certified vote totals fuel move to November ballot

In the Shelby County delegation to the Tennessee General Assembly, three races are center stage.

Republican Brent Taylor faces Democrat Ruby Dennis Powell for the open state Senate District 31 seat.

Incumbent Republican Brian Kelsey called off his re-election bid in March following his indictment in October 2021 on federal campaign finance charges.

The district was also redrawn by the Republican supermajorities in the state House and state Senate to make it more Republican.

Democratic state Senator London Lamar was appointed by the Shelby County Commission to fill the District 33 seat vacated when Democratic incumbent Katrina Robinson was convicted of federal wire fraud charges and ousted by the Senate.

Germantown, Lakeland mayoral candidates unopposed as ballots are set in suburban elections

Lamar is running for a full four-year term and faces Republican Frederick D. Tappan and independent Hastina Robinson on the ballot.

Lamar moved to the Senate from the House after she and fellow Democratic incumbent House member Torrey Harris were drawn into the same district in redistricting.

Harris is running unopposed in the race for state House District 91.

The only mayor’s race in the suburbs to be settled is the four-way race to succeed the retiring Keith McDonald as mayor of Bartlett.

Germantown Mayor Mike Palazzolo is unopposed in his re-election bid. Josh Roman is running unopposed in Lakeland to succeed Mayor Mike Cunningham, who decided not to seek another term.


Nov. 8 2022 election early voting voter turnout

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Bill Dries

Bill Dries

Bill Dries covers city and county government and politics. He is a native Memphian and has been a reporter for more than 40 years.


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