On to Election Day: A quick guide to the Nov. 3 ballot

By , Daily Memphian Updated: October 30, 2020 6:08 AM CT | Published: October 30, 2020 4:00 AM CT

The 2020 presidential Election Day is nearly here, but there’s much more on the ballot Tuesday, Nov. 3, than the race for the nation’s top office.

Coming Tuesday: The Daily Memphian will have comprehensive live coverage all day and night on Election Day. A live blog during the day will focus on voter turnout and any Election Day issues. When the polls close, we will have live results — updated every 60 seconds — from national, state and local races. Count on Memphis’ largest local news staff to bring you the best election coverage. 

That race, leading the ballot, is what makes this election the most popular election cycle in Shelby County politics by turnout. It is the only election cycle that consistently sees more than half of the county’s voters cast their ballots.

And the 2020 version of that cycle will probably continue the recent tradition of most Shelby Countians who participate casting their ballots before Election Day. 

Bartlett Post Office to accept absentee mail-in ballots

Local leaders plan for election surprises beyond ‘incivility’

Shelby election officials get new ballot scanners for absentee vote count

Early voting ended Thursday in Shelby County with rain and lines at some of the voting sites.

With 20,856 early voters on the final day of the period and counting 23,786 absentee ballots received by mail through Thursday at the election commission, the preliminary count is 326,001 early and absentee voters in advance of election day.

That amounts to 55.1% of the 590,726 voters on the rolls in Shelby County as of the Oct. 1 monthly report by the election commission.

Mail-in absentee ballots will continue to come in to election officials until the election day polls close at 7 p.m. Tuesday.

Barring a Collierville runoff, this is the last scheduled election in Memphis and countywide until county primaries in May 2022. Arlington will have a set of races for aldermen and school board in 2021.

Shelby County election officials plan on completing the county’s vote tally around midnight.

Tennessee Secretary of State Tre Hargett has set midnight as a goal for having complete statewide returns Tuesday, although he says that goal could stretch into the pre-dawn hours of Wednesday morning.

Here’s a quick review of the races to watch and why they are important.

Tennessee Legislature

All 14 state House seats that include Shelby County and two of the five state Senate seats within the county are on the ballot.

One of the two Senate races and eight of the 14 House races are no contest — the incumbent won those races at the April deadline to file as a candidate because they drew no opposition.

Four other races are of interest because of their competitiveness — all in the state House, where the best bet to upset an incumbent always comes in the August primary, not in the November general.

District 96

When Democrat Dwayne Thompson claimed this suburban House seat from Republican Steve McManus in 2016, Democrats made it the model for similar challenges in the suburbs.

Key races set to shape Shelby legislative delegation

Thompson was re-elected two years ago and this time around faces Republican Patti Possel, best known for being among anti-annexation forces contesting Cordova’s annexation by the city just before the Legislature passed a law requiring approval of such annexations by referendum.

Early voting ends with questions, big numbers, deep differences

District 83

Republican incumbent Mark White faces Democratic challenger Jerri Green. Both have their respective state parties helping in what is a battle of ideologies and a test to see if more suburban house districts are in play.

School vouchers are an issue in legislative races

District 97

The only open seat in the Shelby County delegation is the seat to which Republican Jim Coley decided not to seek re-election.

He has endorsed Republican nominee John Gillespie, who faces Democratic nominee Gabby Salinas. Two years ago, Salinas ran in a competitive challenge of state Sen. Brian Kelsey.

Gillespie, Salinas spar over refugee rights endorsement

District 90

This is a rematch of the 2018 Democratic primary between incumbent John DeBerry and Torrey Harris with a twist.

DeBerry was taken off the Democratic primary ballot this past August by the Tennessee Democratic Party for voting with Republicans in the Legislature. Harris won the primary.

The Legislature then approved a law that reopened the filing deadline to permit Deberry to run as an independent.

If Harris defeats DeBerry, he’d be first openly LGBT lawmaker

Harris attacks DeBerry for stance in favor of protest bill

Presidential General Election

Tennessee is not a battleground state, meaning its outcome is not in dispute by either the Trump or Biden campaigns or Republicans and Democrats in general. The closest thing to even a surrogate of either campaign making an appearance was U.S. Attorney General Bill Barr’s meeting with law enforcement and criminal justice system leaders at a police precinct during early voting.

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

The assumption is that Shelby County will be carried by Democratic nominee Joe Biden thanks to the Democratic base within the city of Memphis.

In the past three presidential election cycles, Shelby County accounted for 23.5% to 24.2% of the statewide vote for the Democratic presidential nominee.

The Republican base in the suburbs outside Memphis but within the county will account for roughly 7.6% to 9.8% of what is expected to be President Donald Trump’s winning statewide total in taking Tennessee’s 11 electoral votes if the past three presidential general elections are any indication.

First balloting in presidential election begins this week

What’s Important

We likely won’t know this definitively until after election night when we get a look at precinct-by-precinct returns. But it will be interesting to see how Trump’s vote total countywide and in the suburban precincts compare to his totals four years ago. Same song, second verse for a comparison of Biden to 2016 Democratic nominee Hillary Clinton.

U.S. Senate

The Democratic primary in the only statewide race this year was the surprise of the August ballot as Memphis environmental activist Marquita Bradshaw upset Nashville attorney James Mackler, with roots in organizing and activism.

Presidential campaigns have distinctly Memphis flavor

After some early primary trouble, former U.S. ambassador to Japan and former Tennessee Economic and Community Development Commissioner Bill Hagerty decisively won the Republican primary over Vanderbilt trauma surgeon Dr. Manny Sethi.

This is expected to go like the presidential race in the local results and the statewide results.

Marquita Bradshaw: ‘Not a fringe campaign’

What’s Important

Hagerty’s campaign has been a version of Republican Marsha Blackburn’s successful campaign for the state’s other Senate seat two years ago. Hagerty is even using the same campaign team and rhetoric that in the primary emphasized complete allegiance to Trump and describing any and all Democrats as socialists.

Bradshaw, Hagerty duel over canceled debate

The playbook also means not a lot of time campaigning in Shelby County, which led Sethi to make trouble in the primary polling. But Hagerty adjusted his strategy in time to win by a wide margin by the August election day.

Bradshaw, unlike other unexpected winners of both parties, has surprised many with her ability to mount a campaign with a statewide reach using her connections as an organizer. So it will be interesting to see what she does in other parts of the state.

Sethi campaigns with Cruz in Cordova in tight U.S. Senate primary

Germantown Board of Aldermen

Three seats on the five-member board are on the ballot in these nonpartisan races — and not an incumbent in any of them.

This means a majority of the board will be new. However, in the event of a tie, the mayor of Germantown votes to break the tie.

Suburban down-ballot races are competitive

The races are being watched closely for what they mean to the city’s long-running political struggle between those seeking to include new types of development in the city’s future growth and those who want the city’s future course to adhere strictly to its history as a bedroom community that is mostly residential.

McCreery, Musso face off for Germantown Alderman Position 5

Miles, Motley, Ueleke seek Germantown Alderman Position 4

Hicks, Johnson to face off for Germantown Alderman Position 3

Collierville Alderman Position 4

The yard sign survey of Collierville front yards shows a lot of signs for this race, which shares the ballot in Collierville with two other alderman races. This one has no incumbent and six candidates for the seat held by the late Tom Allen, who died earlier this year shortly after announcing his resignation from the board following a cancer diagnosis.

Collierville Alderman Tom Allen dies at age 84

Six seeking Alderman Position 4; runoff likely

If no candidate gets a majority of the votes, the top two contenders advance to a special Dec. 8 runoff election.

Collierville School Board Position 3

Another open position here, as Mark Hansen leaves the seat he has held since the founding of the Collierville Schools system. Hansen has been the only chairman the school board has ever had.

Mark Hansen will not seek reelection for Collierville Schools board

Four face off for open Collierville school board seat

There are four contenders for the open seat, with the new chairman to be selected once the new board is seated.

Incumbents Wanda Gibbs and Wright Cox are running unopposed in the two other school board races on the ballot.

Frazier challenges incumbent Stamps for Alderman Position 5 in Collierville

Booker, Swan challenging Worley for Collierville Alderman Position 3

Lakeland Commissioner

Two years after he lost his bid for re-election as Lakeland’s mayor, Scott Carmichael is running for the one of the two commission positions on the ballot. His rivals are Jim Atkinson and Commissioner Wesley Alan Wright.

Lakeland officials disagree on reason for canceled meeting

Lakeland does this a bit differently — voters select two candidates from a single list and the top two vote-getters are the winners. So at least one of the two commissioners elected will be new.

Bartlett Alderman Position 6

Incumbent Paula Sedgwick is seeking a third term in the only contested race of the three alderman races on the ballot. She faces Kevin Quinn.

2 candidates seeking elected office for first time in Bartlett race

Bartlett aldermen candidates differ on approach to role

U.S. House

The county’s two Congressmen, Republican David Kustoff of Germantown and Democrat Steve Cohen of Memphis, are never safer than they are in the general election because of how Congressional districts are drawn across the nation with strong Democratic or Republican majorities.

Cohen’s district is all within Shelby County and is most of the county.

Aug. and Nov. ballot candidates begin campaign moves

This will be the fourth time Cohen has faced Republican Charlotte Bergmann in the general election. Bergmann has gone from tea party partisan to Trump supporter over that time.

Cohen says Biden-Harris ticket should campaign in Memphis

Cohen, Kustoff reflect Congressional divide over new COVID relief package

Cohen’s role as vocal Trump critic figures prominently in bid for eighth term

Kustoff’s district includes parts of Shelby County and the city of Memphis. But the bulk of the 8th Congressional district is 14 other counties in rural west Tennessee where conversion from conservative blue dog Democrat to the reddest Republican red is integral to the state’s Republican voting majority.

Kustoff addresses COVID-19, election at Collierville luncheon

Kustoff talks CARES Act, PPP and USPS during Bartlett chamber speech

He faces Democratic nominee Erika Stotts Pearson in a general election rematch from 2018 when they first met.

The race also features the return of independent James Hart of Buchanan, Tennessee, who ran as the Republican nominee for the Congressional seat several years ago. Hart was disavowed by the Tennessee Republican Party after he won the primary for his promotion of eugenics and white supremacy.


2020 Elections

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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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