Last days of early voting could bring ballots cast to 80,000

By , Daily Memphian Updated: July 29, 2022 4:31 PM CT | Published: July 29, 2022 4:31 PM CT

Early voting turnout ahead of the Aug. 4 election day in Shelby County was poised to break 80,000 by the end of the voting period, Saturday, July 30 — based on what the last two days of early voting have looked like in recent elections.

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The nearly 65,000 early and absentee voters through Thursday — the latest figures available from the Tennessee Secretary of State’s office — is already more than the 63,000 votes cast early, absentee and on election day in the May county primaries.

The 64,905 early and absentee ballots through Thursday included 38,645 case in Democratic state and federal primaries. Another 24,636 voted in the Republican primaries.

Friday’s next-to-last day of early voting is expected to be the largest turnout day of the two-week period with perhaps more than 10,000 votes just on that day, based on the trend in past recent elections.

Those trends consistently show that the second week is when most early voters cast their ballots.

The Saturday end of early voting is consistently lower turnout than Friday — with another 7,500 to 11,000 votes by recent elections — because of the shorter hours for balloting.

All 26 voting locations across the county are open through Saturday from 8 a.m. to 4 p.m.

Here are the locations.

Eight early voting sites got additional voting machines during the two-week period because more voters than expected were showing up to vote and the average time it took voters to complete the long ballot was trending upward.

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The sites that got more machines included the Baker Community Center in Millington; Glenview Community Center; Harmony Church in Bartlett; Mississippi Boulevard Christian Church in Midtown; New Bethel Baptist Church in Germantown; Raleigh United Methodist Church; and Second Baptist Church and White Station Church of Christ, both in East Memphis.

Shelby County elections administrator Linda Phillips told election commissioners at a Monday meeting the goal for an average time to vote the ballot is eight minutes but that the locations with more machines had been trending “closer to 12 minutes.”

She described the voting period as going “remarkably well.”

She also noted as the second week of the voting period started that she saw more voters coming in with notes and other written and digital reminders of who they wanted to vote for.

“It is a tremendous help,” she said, noting the average time with notes was about five minutes compared to 15 minutes without notes.


Early voting totals through Thursday, the latest figures available, showed turnout on par or more than the turnout in past versions of the big ballot elections.

It’s also consistent with recent county general elections for the same county offices that did not include the judicial races which come around once every eight years.

That’s despite differences in the number of early voting sites and when all of them were open.

The presence of dozens of nonpartisan judicial races with more than 100 candidates every eight years defines the “big ballot” election cycle as the longest ballot of any election cycle in Shelby County politics.

August 2006

A total of 77,899 voters cast early and absentee ballots ahead of the August election day in the 2006 edition of the big ballot. That accounted for 47.8% of the 164,898 total votes including election day — or 27.2% of the county’s voters.

In the overall turnout, including election day, 90,262 voted in the Democratic primaries and 42,175 in the Republican with the remainder voting the county general election ballot only.

Despite the lopsided Democratic turnout by the primaries, Republicans took nine of the 10 countywide races on the general election ballot.

August 2010

In this non-big ballot election featuring the same countywide races, 93,736 voters cast early ballots — the highest early vote turnout of the four elections in our comparison.

The election also had the highest overall turnout of the four comparables at 29.5% of the county’s voters.

This was a Republican sweep of every countywide office on the ballot, which did not include District Attorney General.

It featured six countywide races without an incumbent topped by a county mayor’s race between Democratic incumbent Joe Ford, who was appointed interim mayor by the County Commission following the resignation of County Mayor AC Wharton, and Republican nominee Mark Luttrell, who was the outgoing sheriff.

The state and federal primary ballot featured a hard-fought three-way race for the Republican nomination for Tennessee governor.

Early voting opens with Shelby County’s ‘big ballot’

It also featured a Democratic 9th District Congressional primary between incumbent Steve Cohen and Willie Herenton, who has ended his 17-year tenure as the city’s longest-serving mayor the year before.

The state and federal primary ballot turnout was the closest of the four elections with 58 more voters picking the Democratic primary ballot than picked the Republican primary ballot.

August 2014

The big ballot election in 2014 posted an early voter turnout of 82,403 toward a total turnout including election day of 145,232 — or 27% — of the county’s voters.

The early vote in 2014 was 56.7% of the total big ballot vote.

Election Commission records for that election don’t break down the early voter turnout by which state and federal primaries those voters chose.

But the total voter turnout with election day shows a difference of 2,700 more Republican primary voters.

Republicans running in the county general elections on the same ballot swept every countywide office in August 2014 except Assessor of Property.

August 2018

Four years later, in the 2018 non-big ballot election, Democrats swept the same countywide offices in a total voter turnout of 155,698 — or 27.7% of the county’s voters.

Of that total, 86,002 of the votes were early or absentee.

The split by the state and federal primary ballots chosen in early voting and election day was majority Democratic and the gap between the two parties was much wider than 2014 and more like the 2006 big ballot party split — only with the result being a Democratic sweep.

Ballot Basics: Early voting is July 15-30

The total turnout posted 90,992 Democratic primary voters and 62,610 Republican primary voters. Democratic voters were a 59.2% majority.

In just early and absentee voting four years ago, Democratic primary turnout was 63.9% of those voters who chose to vote in either state or federal primary, indicating Republicans closed some of that ground on election day but not nearly enough to avoid getting swept.

Partisans — Republican and Democratic — have been watching the gap between state and federal primary turnout closely during the early voting period.


August 2022 election early voting Shelby County Election Commission Linda Phillips

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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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