As early voting ends, push to Aug. 4 election day heats up

By , Daily Memphian Updated: August 04, 2022 2:31 PM CT | Published: July 31, 2022 3:52 PM CT

Early voting ended Saturday, July 30, and candidates on the Aug. 4 ballot are firming up plans for the final campaign push to election day and organizing election night gatherings.

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The push is more specifically focused than the two-week voting period to 12 hours Thursday when the polls are open. It also targets voters who may remain undecided or who are debating whether to vote at all.

Politicos regard early voters — especially those in the first of the two weeks — as those who made their ballot decisions early.

Early voting ends with clouds, lines and questions

Part of the push to election day is a review of early voting turnout numbers to look for how far down or up a candidate may be in what amounts to roughly half of the total vote already cast.

They don’t know who voters selected on a very long ballot. But they know just about everything short of that by the Election Commission data, which is public record.

The final numbers including turnout on the last day along with the final breakdown of how many cast early ballots in the state and federal primary elections – Democratic and Republican – are expected to be released Monday.

They should show an overall turnout of about 80,000 early voters over the entire period, which is on par with early voter turnout in the previous “big ballot” election of 2014 and the non-big ballot 2018 election that featured the same county offices but not the full schedule of judicial races nor a race for District Attorney General.

The gap between those choosing the Democratic primary ballot and those choosing the Republican primary ballot — at least through the Friday early voting numbers — shows nearly 18,000 more voters chose the Democratic ballot than the Republican ballot.

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

Politicos in both parties see it as an indication of how those voters will make their decisions in the county general election races.

But voters don’t always follow their party preference from the primaries when voting the county part of the ballot.

Republican contenders for countywide offices on the 2006 big ballot won a lot of close contests over Democratic rivals despite a lopsided majority Democratic turnout in the choice of state and federal primary ballots.

The difference between Democratic and Republican primary ballots choices in 2010 was 58 more voting the Democratic state and federal ballot than those voting the Republican ballot.

But further down on the same ballot, Republicans swept every countywide office on the ballot.

Political Roundup: Early voting’s first full week, the county clerk’s race, and Latino voters

Both elections came at a time when the local Republican party openly touted a slate of candidates who could compete for Democratic cross over votes in a majority Democratic county.

These days those same politicos don’t talk much about the cross over potential on either side of a more pronounced partisan divide nationally as well as locally.

It’s about voter turnout.

Added to the mix are nonpartisan groups working to boost turnout with a lot of organizing work before voters begin balloting and continuing during the balloting.

The Shelby County Election Commission is working for the second election this year with the Shelby County Voter Alliance on efforts to answer questions from voters at the polls. The efforts include “poll parties” and free rides on the city’s bus system on the next to last day of early voting — normally the highest early voting turnout day.

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

The Alliance has also branched out with its member organizations holding more poll parties.

Christ Missionary Baptist Church Pastor Gina Stewart and members of her congregation went a few blocks west on South Parkway Saturday for the poll party at Mt. Zion Baptist’s early voting site.

The party was organized by MICAH – Memphis Interfaith Coalition for Action and Hope.

MICAH put some organizational groundwork into the effort before the first tent was pitched Saturday at Mt. Zion. It included robocalls from church pastors to members of their congregations reminding them that early voting was about to end.

“This is just a part of my DNA as a person, as a pastor, as a leader and I am excited by what I see,” Stewart said.

The ultimate guide to the judicial races on the August ballot

Stewart realizes the mix of faith and politics is still a deeply personal combination that some faithful church members will resist seeing as an extension of each other.

“I think it’s semantics. I think it’s language, because at the end of the day, politics is really about negotiating interests,” she told The Daily Memphian. “At some point all of us are negotiating our interest — all of us have interests that we are negotiating. Whether we want to call it politics or not — that’s what it is — but you have to be concerned about more than yourself.”

Preachers can walk a fine line in maintaining a nonpartisan stance on basic political choices their congregations make.

Stewart sees the nation’s partisan divide as a struggle between the self interests that she sees as a catalyst for political involvement at the most basic level — voting and a broader view of those interests.

“It’s not just about politics. It’s not just about Democrat, Republican, independent,” she said. “It’s about making sure that we participate in a process so that there is equity, so that there is equality, so that no one suffers.”



August 2022 election early voting Mt. Zion Baptist Church Memphis Interfaith Coalition for Action and Hope Rev. Gina Stewart

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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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