Early voting countywide tops 62,000 with two days left

By , Daily Memphian Updated: August 01, 2020 4:00 AM CT | Published: August 01, 2020 4:00 AM CT

More than 62,000 Shelby Countians had voted early through Thursday, July 30, with two more days left in the early-voting period that ends Saturday.

The Shelby County Election Commission numbers, reported Friday afternoon as the penultimate day of early voting was underway, show 41,075 of the 62,347 early voters cast their ballots in the Democratic state and federal primaries. The Republican primary contests drew 20,748 of the early voters with the remaining 524 voting the general election ballot only.

Ballot Basics: Absentee voting for beginners

If past early-voting trends are an indication, Friday’s total – should see the highest daily turnout with shorter hours for all 26 locations in the county on Saturday’s final day.

The totals include 9,646 absentee ballots, an unusually high number that reflects concerns about in-person voting during the COVID-19 pandemic and a court order that permits Tennessee voters to apply for the mail-in ballots because of those health concerns.

Shelby County Elections Administrator Linda Phillips expected 20,000 or so absentee ballot applications by the deadline this past Thursday to apply. If that is the number, about half of the absentee ballots will have been cast during early voting and the other half in the gap between Saturday’s end of early voting and election day.

The mail-in ballots must be received by the election commission no later than the 7 p.m. closing of the polls on the Aug. 6 election day.

Ballot Basics: Early voting July 17-Aug. 1

<strong>Bill Hagerty</strong>

Bill Hagerty

<strong>Manny Sethi</strong>

Manny Sethi

The 7,645 absentee votes cast in the Democratic primary during early voting were more by far than at any of the 26 voting sites through Thursday followed by Anointed Temple of Praise in southeast Memphis, Abundant Grace Fellowship Church in Whitehaven and Riverside Missionary Baptist Church in South Memphis.

The 1,845 absentee votes in the Republican primary for the same period was the fourth highest total among GOP voters after Harmony Church in Bartlett, Collierville Church of Christ and New Bethel Baptist Church in Germantown, in that order.

The primary ballots are topped by statewide contests for the U.S. Senate seat Republican Lamar Alexander leaves at the end of the year. The winners of the primaries advance to the Nov. 3 general election ballot.

The Republican primary fight among former U.S. Ambassador to Japan Bill Hagerty, Nashville trauma surgeon Dr. Manny Sethi and Dr. George Flinn of Memphis is drawing national attention since Hagerty’s 16-point lead in the polls evaporated this month, making it a close contest with Sethi.

Republican Senate primary narrows between Hagerty and Sethi as Flinn seeks different path

Attack ads between Hagerty and Sethi have dominated television advertising in the city as a result and the rancor has shown up in the few joint in-person appearances by the two in several parts of the state.

<strong>U.S. Sen.</strong><br /><strong>Marsha Blackburn</strong>

U.S. Sen.
Marsha Blackburn

Hagerty has the endorsement of President Donald Trump and Friday rallied online with Republican U.S. Sen. Marsha Blackburn, who in recent weeks has been campaigning with Hagerty.

Hagerty described Blackburn as “the most conservative senator in the United States Senate,” during the half-hour event.

Blackburn said the stakes in the Senate primary and the general election are to maintain Republican political dominance in the state.

“We are not going to let the mob win,” she said. “We are not going to let the liberals get a toehold in Tennessee. We are going to remain a conservative state and … right-of-center nation.”

Blackburn told the group of online supporters that the “solid definable majority” that gave Trump the state’s 11 electoral votes in the 2016 presidential general election were the result of years of building a “conservative majority” in local and state offices.

Mackler bides time, plans for Senate Democratic primary

Hagerty’s campaign has been bolstered by renewed endorsements from Trump and his family as well as several Fox News personalities, including Sean Hannity.

Sethi has drawn support from Texas Republican Sen. Ted Cruz, a 2016 presidential hopeful, as well as former Republican Congressman Zach Wamp of Chattanooga. And he has begun making inroads into the Republican members of the Tennessee Legislature – a group Hagerty had touted heavily before the drop in the polls.

In a Facebook video earlier in the week, Wamp described Hagerty as “a really bad candidate who has not handled himself well.”

“This is about the future of the conservative movement, the future of the Republican party,” he said. “It’s a clear choice.”

Wamp said he saw Sethi and Hagerty together at a Grundy County live event with Gov. Bill Lee and was surprised that Hagerty was as negative in person as his attack ads have been on television.

“He even began his speech with an accent,” Wamp said of the way Hagerty has repeatedly mispronounced Sethi’s name. “It’s as if he wants to emphasize that his (Sethi’s) parents are immigrants or something. It really verges on racism and it make people so uncomfortable.”

The mispronunciation of Sethi’s name has come up at other campaign stops and Hagerty was asked about it in a Politico piece on the race headlined “The nastiest Republican primary in the country.”

Hagerty said the mispronunciation is inadvertent.

Blackburn and Hagerty both called Friday for a harder foreign policy line on China.

Blackburn said payment of U.S. debt to China, which she estimated at $1.2 trillion, should be negotiated and possibly waived by the U.S. because of COVID-19, which she and Hagerty referred to as the “Wuhan virus.”

“What we need to say to China is, ‘You took our jobs, you sent us a virus and we are going to hold you accountable for that,’” Blackburn said. “That debt is a great way to do it.”

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2020 Election 2020 U.S. Senate race early voter turnout absentee voting
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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