Early Voting is Underway 

Here are some things you need to know about the process.

click to enlarge voting_machine.jpg
Even as debates go on at the presidential and other levels and almost a month remains before election-day voting on November 6th, early voting has started in Shelby County. It began on Wednesday and will continue through Thursday, November 1st.

As usual, the Flyer will have a detailed pre-election article before election day. Meanwhile, here is basic information on the early voting process.

In an email bulletin to her network, election commissioner Norma Lester, one of two Democrats on the five-member oversight body, expressed optimism: "I hope you'll find comfort in me saying there should be no major issues with this election!"

Lester noted, "This, however, does not come without a colossal cost to you, the taxpayer." She paid homage "to the dedication, extended hours, and sacrifices of election commission staff, a $48,000 extended contract to ES&S (an expert in election systems and software), GIS support from the University of Memphis, extended services of Curt Wolfe, outside consultant, generous oversight and assistance from the state coordinator of elections office, and virtually bursting at the seams with temporary employees and poll workers."  

Lester related the add-on expenditures to a year-long series of election commission glitches (some imagined, some exaggerated, some all too real — notably, the lateness in assigning ballots by precinct for the August 2nd election and the fact that more than 3,000 incorrect ballots were distributed).

"Should these expenses have been allocated? Absolutely YES! We needed to do whatever was necessary to gain ground and restore integrity in the process. Ultimate goal being to restore your confidence. ..."  

Lester noted that voter registration had closed last Monday, October 8th, and quoted Shelby County Election Commission administrator Rich Holden as stating that all voters who had successfully registered by that date should have received their voter registration cards by Wednesday of this week, the first day of early voting.

All voters must present an acceptable photo ID at their polling places. The Shelby County website (from which the preceding information was derived) also includes this important note: "The new law requiring a government-issued photo ID to vote applies only to those voting at polling places. It does not apply to those casting absentee ballots under state law, including those age 65 or older who wish to vote absentee or those voting at licensed nursing homes."

Lester advises that "those without photo ID are encouraged to take advantage of the extended services offered by the Department of Safety Saturday, November 3rd, at the driver's license station located on 3200 Shelby Drive from 8:00 a.m. to 4:00 p.m."

She advises that requests for absentee ballots have gone "as high as 500 ballots on some days" and recommends that route, at least for selected voters: "[T]hose seemingly with the greatest need are over 60 and the handicapped. Handicapped or disabled voters must submit a doctor's statement no less than seven days before the election."


• It remains possible that U.S. district judge Hardy Mays, who is presiding over a suit by the Shelby County Commission attempting to block municipal schools in six incorporated suburbs, might at any moment issue a ruling on the constitutionality of legislation enabling the schools. Pending some such development, elections for school board members in the affected suburbs will go on, beginning with early voting and concluding on election day, November 6th.

Another matter of some consequence to county voters, beginning with early voting this week, is a referendum for a half-cent increase in the Shelby County sales tax — the proceeds of which, if passed, would be divided evenly between school needs countywide (the distribution of which would be proportional to the state average-daily-attendance formula) and general budgetary purposes.

All tax initiatives are controversial, of course, but this one is especially so, inasmuch as the county tax hike, if successful, would supersede half-cent sales tax increases passed on August 2nd in the six suburban municipalities to finance their school systems. (Chancellor Arnold Goldin ruled last week that Millington, which had appeared to have narrowly rejected a tax hike, had actually passed it after ineligible votes from newly annexed Lucy were ruled out.)

As of now, the sales tax increase is effective in the suburbs, and each of them would continue to receive school funding from a successful passage of the county tax initiative, though at a different level — one that would be reduced for most of the suburbs.

The county referendum also displaced from the ballot what had been scheduled to be an equivalent sales tax increase in Memphis only.

Last week, it was revealed that Shelby County Commission chairman Mike Ritz, the sponsor of the sales tax referendum, had launched a half-million-dollar publicity program on its behalf. When the news surfaced, Ritz said that some $200,000 of the half-million had already been raised and that the publicity program — which includes everything from handbills to T-shirts to transportation to the polls — was already well under way.

In a fund-raising letter to potential contributors, Ritz had this to say about polling he had overseen: "While only 22 percent liked and a large 66 percent disliked the sales tax referendum when first asked in the poll, the numbers changed to 41 percent and 45 percent after the likely voters heard about some positive uses of the funds.

"While the gap was -44 percent when first asked, it was only -4 percent at the end of the poll. Forty percent changed their mind with a few facts and queries! The campaign needs to stress only a few points to win: pre-kindergarten (88 percent agree); invest more in teachers (80 percent); less property tax (55 percent); and keeping community centers and libraries open and cleaning blight in Memphis (67 percent).

"We are confident a successful campaign can be organized around this poll and the breakdowns coming from the professionals."

The hike was supported by Memphis mayor A C Wharton and various city council members at a recent press conference. Among the referendum's endorsers are the Shelby County Democratic Party, the NAACP, Stand for Children, Mid-South Peace & Justice Center, and Latino Memphis.


Beginning Wednesday, October 17th, through Thursday, November 1st Weekdays: 10 a.m. to 7 p.m. at all locations Saturday, October 20th: 8 a.m. to 4 p.m. at downtown location; 10 a.m. to 4 p.m. at satellites Saturday, October 27th: 10 a.m. to 4 p.m. at all locations

Downtown early voting location: Shelby County Office Building, 157 Poplar Avenue, 38103

Other locations

Agri-Center International, 7777 Walnut Grove Road, 38120 Anointed Temple of Praise, 3939 Riverdale Road, 38141 Baker Community Center, 7942 Church Road, Millington, 38053 Bellevue Baptist Church, 2000 Appling Road, Memphis/Cordova, 38016 Berclair Church of Christ, 4536 Summer Avenue, 38122 Bethel Church,

5586 Stage Road, 38134 Bishop Byrne High School, 1475 Shelby Drive, 38116 Collierville Church of Christ, 575 Shelton Dr., Collierville, 38017 Dave Wells Community Center, 915 Chelsea Avenue, 38107 Glenview Community Center, 1141 South Barksdale Street, 38114 Greater Lewis Street Baptist Church, 152 East Parkway North, 38104 Greater Middle Baptist Church, 4982 Knight Arnold Road, 38118 Mississippi Blvd. Church-Family Life Center, 70 North Bellevue Boulevard, 38106 Mt. Zion Baptist Church, 60 South Parkway East, 38106 New Bethel Baptist Church, 7786 Poplar Pike, Germantown, 38138 Raleigh U. M. Church, 3295 Powers Road, 38128 Refuge Church, 9817 Huff N Puff Road, 38002 Riverside Baptist Church, 3560 South Third Street, 38109 Shiloh Baptist Church, 3121 Range Line Road, 38127 White Station Church of Christ, 1106 Colonial Road, 38117

Acceptable Photo IDs include the following:

• Tennessee driver's license with photo

(current or expired)

• A driver's license issued by another state

(current or expired)

• U.S. passport

• Federal employee ID w/photo  

• State employee ID w/photo

(including those issued by state universities,

but note: Student ID cards from state

universities are not acceptable.)

• U.S. military ID

• Gun permit card with a photo

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