Memphis Flyer

Political Shakeup in Shelby County Politics

Jul 19, 2018 4:00 AM

Everybody knows by now that the last couple of weeks on the national and international scenes have been unusually crucial ones. In particular, the destructive wanderings of President Donald Trump over the landscapes of our traditional European allies, culminating in his obsequious bow of obedience to Kremlin dictator Vladimir Putin in Helsinki, Finland, may already have upset the traditional balance of power that has existed in the world since 1945.

And, make no mistake about it, that's a bad thing.

Events that happened in that same time frame within the governmental chambers and courtrooms of Shelby County may have tipped local politics into a new order, as well. And that could be a good thing.

The major circumstance of local politics in that period concerned no particular election race, although there are several ongoing contests of importance, and the outcomes of an unusually large number of them are hard to predict. The seminal event locally was, in one sense, legal, though in another sense it cut to the root of the political process itself.

The issue was that of early voting, in particular, and the very democratic gift of self-government, in general. The early-voting period for county Democratic and Republican primaries, conducted in May at 21 sites countywide, had gone off relatively seamlessly and had even generated a modest uptick in the rate of early voting, something for which neither Shelby County nor Tennessee at large had been noted for up to then. So, when the Shelby County Election Commission, on June 21st, announced that, for early voting prior to the August 2nd county general election and state/federal primaries, it was adding three new sites in the Republican hinterland and designating the Agricenter, located in the heart of suburbia, as a master site of sorts, open for four extra days, local Democrats took umbrage, not merely protesting their belief that the change reflected bias but taking the issue to court.

We're not necessarily endorsing the validity of their charge nor finding culpability in the actions of the Shelby County Election Commission, but we did take satisfaction in the ultimate verdict from Chancellor JoeDae L. Jenkins that the commission needed to further diversify its add-on sites, providing a truer balance between Democratic voting constituencies and Republican ones.

And we take additional pleasure in noting that the turnout on the first two days of early-voting at the amended roster of early-voting sites was much brisker than usual. Democrats in particular made a point of turning out in large numbers, but it seemed clear that a Republican response in like measure was due to follow.

The bottom line is that the current election has a fair chance of generating authentic results from the community at large. It takes a village, as the saying goes, and it also takes aroused opinion in that village and, if need be, legal action on the part of its tribunals.

And who knows? Maybe an equivalent reaction from an American citizenry fed up and embarrassed by the summit surrender at Helsinki can force some overdue reordering on the national political landscape, as well.

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