Did you see the sample ballot for the August 3rd election in last Sunday's Commercial Appeal? If you didn't, you might want to dig your copy out of the recycling bin and take a good look at it. There are 177 contests to be decided, and, depending upon where you live, you could have as many as 140 votes to cast that day.
I went through the ballot at my breakfast table and mock-voted in every contest in which I was eligible to vote. It took me a little more than eight minutes, and I'm a fast reader and reasonably sure whom I want to vote for. If I'm typical, that means each voting machine/booth will handle seven or eight voters an hour, or roughly 90 voters during the 12-hour voting period. To complicate matters, Shelby County voters will be using 1,500 brand-new Diebold voting machines.
Let's do more math: 90 times 1,500 is 135,000 -- the approximate number of voters who can be accommodated on election day, if my admittedly amateur calculations are correct. (And that's only if every machine is busy all day long.)
There are more than 600,000 registered voters in Shelby County. Can you say "long-ass lines"?
Obviously, voter turnout will fall considerably short of 600,000. I'd say a good guess would be around 30 percent, or 200,000 voters. But that still seems well beyond the capacity of 1,500 machines -- with this ballot -- in a 12-hour period. Even using the old Shouptronic voting machines would have been a nightmare with a ballot this size, but the new machines will require some sort of instruction process for many voters, further slowing the vote.
My advice: Vote early, unless you like the idea of possibly waiting several hours to cast your ballot. You can go to 19 early-voting polling places around the county, beginning Friday, July 14th. (Go to the Election Commision Web site, shelbyvote.com, for more information.) It would be a good idea to get a sample ballot and fill it out in advance -- a "cheat sheet," as it were -- so you don't clog things up trying to make 140 decisions in the voting booth.
Long lines will keep many voters away from polling places. And low voter turnout means some races will be decided by a miniscule percentage of the voting public -- some of whom might be dead, if past history is any indication. And then we're stuck with them.
So if you're registered (and alive), go vote. Today.
Bruce VanWyngarden, Editor
Exactly seven years ago this week, I wrote a column decrying a proposal by city engineers to turn the Overton Park Greensward into an 18-foot-deep "detention basin" designed to stop flooding in Midtown. The engineers claimed we'd hardly notice the football-field-sized bowl. "Except," I wrote then, "when it rains hard, at which time, users of Overton Park would probably notice a large, 18-foot-deep lake in the Greensward. Or afterward, a large, muddy, trash-filled depression."