State nears quarter-million mark in early voting

By , Daily Memphian Updated: July 29, 2020 11:42 AM CT | Published: July 25, 2020 4:00 AM CT

Almost a quarter of a million Tennesseans have voted early or absentee six days into the early voting period for the Aug. 6 election day.

Most of the 246,794 early voters tallied by the Tennessee Secretary of State’s office voted in the Republican primary – 152,309 – compared to 90,445 in the Democratic primary. The remaining 4,040 voted on the general election ballot only.

Shelby County’s 26,347 early votes through Thursday is 10.7% of the statewide total, by the state numbers.

The early voting period statewide continues through Aug. 1. It enters its second weekend Saturday, July 25.

Ballot Basics: Early voting July 17-Aug. 1

The Shelby County total is the second highest in the state behind Davidson County, which had 35,692 early voters. The Nashville area had a large turnout on opening day July 17 with 14,379 compared to 5,203 in Shelby County.

Knox County, including Knoxville, shows a turnout of 17,789 and Hamilton County, including Chattanooga, at 11,362.

Of the state’s 95 counties, 92 posted majority Republican early voting totals. Shelby, Davidson and Haywood county were the only majority Democratic counties at the six-day mark.

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The partisan balance was closest in Haywood County, which was carried by Democratic presidential nominee Hillary Clinton in the 2016 presidential general election.

Through six days of early voting, 277 Haywood County voters cast their ballots in the Democratic primary compared to 229 voting in the Republican primary.

Most of the state’s counties are more sparsely populated than the four major metropolitan areas of Memphis, Nashville, Chattanooga and Knoxville.

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While Shelby County has the largest base of Democratic voters of any single county within its borders and the largest base of Republican voters of any single county in the suburbs outside Memphis, it is the combined vote totals of the much smaller 91 counties that have made Tennessee a red – or Republican – state in presidential elections since 2000.

For the time being at least, Davidson County is the bluest – or most Democratic – county in its turnout with the Democratic primary vote accounting for 72% of the early vote compared to 62.9% in Shelby County.

In Knox County, the percentage is about the same as Shelby County -- but in the other column, with 63.4% of the early vote so far in the Republican primary. The Hamilton County turnout is 54.8% Republican through six days.

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There are a few areas that are closer. Madison County, including Jackson, has had 1,808 votes in the Republican primary compared to 1,364 in the Democratic primary.

Also in West Tennessee, Hardeman County’s early vote count shows 569 Republican primary voters to 466 in the Democratic primary column.

The Shelby County Election Commission totals through Thursday are a bit higher than the state numbers at 27,141, a difference of 794.

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The local totals for the six days show 17,081 voting in the Democratic primary and 9,830 in the Republican primary. The remaining 230 voted the general election ballots only.

By the local numbers, Thursday was the biggest day yet for absentee ballots in Shelby County with a daily total of 288.

The Election Commission has had requests for more than 15,000 so far with a July 30 deadline to apply for an absentee ballot and election day, Aug. 6, at 7 p.m. as the deadline to have the mail-in ballots delivered to election officials.

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2020 Election early voter turnout Absentee ballots
Bill Dries

Bill Dries

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

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