Nearly 27,000 cast ballots in bold opening day of early vote

By , Daily Memphian Updated: October 15, 2020 10:23 AM CT | Published: October 14, 2020 11:56 AM CT

Early voting in advance of the Nov. 3 presidential general election day made a bold debut in Shelby County Wednesday, Oct. 14, with an unofficial total of 26,839 voters. The daily count is the highest daily total for the county’s most popular election cycle by turnout since 2008, which is only 48 voters more.

The opening day turnout, based on voter check-in sheets at the 26 locations across the county, began with socially distanced long lines at most of the sites and an abundance of face masks worn in those lines.

Ballot Basics: Early Voting Oct. 14-29

Early voting continues Thursday morning. Here is the schedule of early-voting locations and their hours.

Early in the day as some of those who started lines outside polling places before they opened were voting, Shelby County Elections Administrator Linda Phillips termed the partial turnout figures “unprecedented” and an indication of a likely record turnout for the entire 14-day period that runs through Oct. 29.

“We absolutely love seeing so many of our citizens get out to vote,” she said. “It’s literally what we live for.”

The turnout came with a morning and evening rush.

At one point in the last three hours of early voting Wednesday, the election commission reported that 745 people has signed the check-in sheets countywide in the space of 18 minutes.

The opening day total compares to a 2008 early vote of 26,887 — excluding absentee that are routinely tallied as part of the early-voter turnout.

The 2008 and 2020 numbers each include nursing home votes which are considered in-person voting. Each total does not include absentee votes.

The current early-voting period has more polling locations and longer hours than past presidential general elections in the county since 1996, the first presidential election in Tennessee to feature early voting.

The 2008 total was posted on the last day of early voting in 2008, which has been the top turnout day in the previous three presidential general elections in Shelby County.

The total also exceeds any one-day early voting total in the 2018 midterm general elections in Shelby County — the first time in more than two decades that a majority of the county’s voters participated in an election cycle that was not a presidential general election.

Early voting opens with expectation of large turnout for presidential general election

Going into the last hour of early voting Wednesday evening, there were long lines reported at Anointed Temple of Praise and Greater Lewis Street Baptist Church.

A variety of voters responding to a social media request by The Daily Memphian said it took them one to two minutes to make their choices and complete the ballot once they got to voting machines.

Voters at the two Collierville early-voting sites got an early start. Some showed up at 6:30 a.m. at Collierville Church of Christ. By 11 a.m., there were lines around the buildings there and at Compassion Church, the other Collierville site.

The election commission reported some voters at Anointed Temple of Praise, the top early voting site in August in terms of turnout, were in line at 3 a.m.

There was a line of more than 100 people around 9:45 a.m. Wednesday morning at Pursuit of God Church in Frayser at 3759 N. Watkins St.

And church pastor Ricky Floyd passed out snacks and water to those waiting in line.

Eddie and Valencia Tyler arrived a half hour before the polling place opened and waited an hour to vote. Each rated it a smooth process as they left.

“Please come out and vote, every vote counts,” Valencia Tyler said. “Exercise your right to vote, whoever you vote for, exercise it today.”

Ballot Basics: Voting Absentee and Lessons from August

Voters at New Bethel Missionary Baptist Church in Germantown were eager to vote. Although polls didn’t open until 9 a.m. by 8 a.m. a few dozen were in line. 

By about 9:15 a.m. more than 175 people were lined up.

Germantown candidates for alderman and school board were outside, social distanced, wearing masks and thanking those who came for voting.

Former Shelby County Mayor Mark Luttrell was among the election officials at the New Bethel voting site.

Meanwhile a large campaign sign picturing President Donald Trump and State Representative John Deberry side by side and reading “Donald Trump & John Deberry” in red letters was posted outside the Mississippi Boulevard Christian Church early voting site.

The Deberry campaign denies it is their campaign sign.

Deberry is seeking re-election as an independent on the general election ballot after the Tennessee Democratic Party disqualified him and took him name off the ballot in the August Democratic primary.

Deberry faces Democratic nominee and challenger Torrey Harris on the November ballot.

Election Commission clears backlog of absentee ballot requests

The church is known for a lively and sometimes combative gathering of campaign workers during early voting. Voters who park across the street from the early-voting entrance off Jefferson Avenue walk through them, right up to the 100-foot markers that are the boundary for where, by state law, campaigning must stop.

Bartlett Mayor Keith McDonald tweeted an appeal to “all my conservative friends” to turn out in heavy numbers.

“I fear what the liberals and socialists will do if they get control,” he added.

Indications of the heavy opening-day turnout included more than 22,000 absentee ballots processed by the Shelby County Election Commission in advance of the start of early voting with two more weeks for voters to request the mail-in ballots.

Staff reporters Yolanda Jones, Omer Yusuf and Abigail Warren contributed to this story.


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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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