Polls close but glitches, lines delay release of results in 23% turnout

By , Daily Memphian Updated: August 05, 2022 1:42 AM CT | Published: August 04, 2022 2:22 PM CT

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Glitches delayed the release of vote totals Thursday evening until 1 a.m. Friday morning as balloting ended in one of the more contentious and heated local election seasons in recent history.

Not to mention the longest ballot of any election cycle locally.

With the last of the unofficial tabulations completed before dawn Friday, it appeared that for all of the political tumult, the turnout was a meager 22.8% of the county’s 583,829 voters.

That is based on the total number of votes in the countywide race for District Attorney General which had more voters than the race for county mayor.

By that standard, it appeared a total of 46,726 voters cast their ballots on election day compared to 86,637 early and absentee voters ahead of election day. 

Shelby County Democratic Party Chairwoman Gabby Salinas said a readout from tapes, normally posted at polling locations as memory cards are removed and taken to an elections operations center, were not posted as required at at least two precincts.

Also, there were reports of a line at 7:30 p.m., 30 minutes after polls closed, at Houston High School in Germantown.

Democratic Shelby County Mayor Lee Harris, facing a challenge from Republican Worth Morgan, addressed the delay in releasing early vote numbers.

“There’s no reason we can’t have an early voter number right now,” Harris said. “The decision makers — the Shelby County Election Commission — (need) to release the early voting tally because we know the longer it takes to get results, the more suspicious the process becomes. So let’s have credibility in the process, fairness in the process, and timely release of results.”

Shelby County elections administrator Linda Phillips said later that some voting equipment was brought to the operations center at Shelby Farms without running and posting a tape of the results at the precinct because of paper jams in the election equipment.

Some campaign leaders showed up at the operations center to complain about the decision and the slow results.

The Daily Memphian will have updated results on key races throughout the night as vote tallies are released by the Shelby County Election Commission.

Thursday’s lengthy ballot included races for County Mayor, District Attorney General, Shelby County Clerk and a referendum on term limits for Memphis elected officials. 

Races for school board, county commission, local judges, judicial clerks and other positions also were heavy on voters’ minds, all of which resulted in a ballot that was 14 pages — or screens — long in the Election Commission’s voting machines.

Earlier in the day, officials reported turnout was slow but steady.

Shelby County Elections Administrator Linda Phillips said 30,000 voters had cast ballots as of 3 p.m. Thursday, with four hours left to vote. 

Ballot Basics: Aug. 4 Election Day

Depending on the afternoon rush hour voting surge to follow, that figure could translate to a turnout of about 40,000 voters for the day given the 10,000 voters who had cast ballots up to 10 a.m. There were 86,000 early and absentee votes.

Phillips said no major problems were reported during the morning rush hour.

It’s difficult to tell if lines at a polling place mean an increase in turnout or if it’s simply the fact that voters are facing a long ballot. 

Ian Randolph of the Shelby County Voter Alliance said he believes the total voter turnout will top 100,000 by the time the polls close at 7 p.m. 

He cited the early voter turnout in Shelby County, which was the highest of any of the state’s 95 counties.

“The polls that I’ve been able to visit, it’s been slow but it’s been steady,” he said during a noon update at the Election Commission’s operations center at Shelby Farms.

“There haven’t been any real backups,” Randolph said. “It is a long ballot, so it is taking people a little longer.”

Tennessee Gov. Bill Lee, unopposed in the Republican primary for governor on Thursday’s statewide ballot, was in the city for several meetings, including a ride around the city’s interstate loop with Tennessee Highway Patrol officers.

Early voter turnout tops 86,000 in Shelby County

Lee faces the winner of the Democratic primary on the November state and federal general election ballot. The winner of the three-way Democratic primary is among the races to be decided Thursday.

Among the Democratic gubernatorial candidates is Memphis City Council member JB Smiley.

Voters in Shelby County are also deciding a high-profile race for District Attorney General between Republican incumbent Amy Weirich and Democratic challenger Steve Mulroy. 

Also on the ballot are County Mayor, where Democratic incumbent Lee Harris faces Republican Worth Morgan, also a Memphis City Council member.

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

Various clerks, judicial offices and school board seats are on the ballot as well, in addition to municipal races in Arlington and uncontested judicial races in Collierville and Germantown.


August 2022 election Shelby County Election Commission Linda Phillips Ian Randolph

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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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