Monday, July 25, 2016

Commissioner expects dismal turnout in local races; much more in presidential race

If the early and absentee vote count is a barometer of what voters can expect in the Aug. 4 state and federal Democratic and Republican primary election and the Shelby County general election, Democrat and Republican contenders battling for elected office could squeak to the finish line, with one competitor slightly eclipsing the other.
After 8 days of early voting thus far, which began July 15, a total of 15,144 votes were cast as of July 23 – 7,685 for Republican candidates, 7,376 for Democratic candidates, and 83 for non-partisan. The total includes the number of votes cast in the Democratic and Republican primary as well as voters who choose to cast votes only in a county general election.
Early voting ends July 30.
“We don’t anticipate that there would be a great turnout for this (local) election, which is par for the course,” said Shelby County Election Commissioner Norma Lester, a Hillary Clinton delegate who is in Philadelphia for the Democratic National Convention. 
But there is keen interest in the 8th District U.S. House of Representatives seat, she said, after Republican incumbent Stephen Lee Fincher announced he would not seek a fourth term. Thirteen Republicans are vying to replace him, seven from Shelby County.
Two Democrats are on the ballot as well in this overwhelmingly red Republican district. The victor in the Republican primary will face the Democrat and independent in the general election on Nov. 8.
“That’s a highly competitive race,” Lester said.
The district encompasses “Carroll, Crockett, Dyer, Fayette, Gibson, Haywood, Henry, Lake, Lauderdale, Madison, Obion, Tipton, and Weakley counties and portions of Benton and Shelby counties.”
“We’re not seeing a lot of interest or a great turn out for local races,” the commissioner said. “Some people only vote every four years in the presidential election. But we anticipate for the general election in November that we will have a much higher turn out.”
The ongoing battle for the White House is generating worldwide attention. “People will turn out for the presidential election,” she said, despite the fact that both Donald Trump and Clinton are embroiled in one snafu after another.
The four-day Republican Convention in Cleveland, Ohio, wrapped up a week ago with one problem after another – from no-shows by the host governor and former Republican presidential candidate John Kasich, Sen. John McCain, the Bush family, and Mitt Romney. And then there were a few lines in Melania Trump’s speech that were lifted from Michelle Obama’s Democratic National Convention speech in 2008.
“Right now both parties seem to be having some problems,” she said.
Clinton is reeling from the latest debacle that surfaced on the eve of the Democratic National Convention. Sen. Bernie Sanders of Vermont had suspected all alone that DNC chairwoman Debbie Wasserman Schultz and other party officials were partial to Clinton during the primary. Now a plethora of hacked email messages prove Sanders was right.
“The email scandal is another blow,” said Lester. “There is something constant going on throughout this process. Of course, this is something we’re not proud of. But I hope we can rise above that and just focus on our candidate getting elected.”
Will there be a conciliatory movement between Sanders and Clinton? “Bernie has indicated that,” said Lester, hoping that Sanders will succeed in convincing his supporters to merge with the Clinton campaign in a show of unity.
“We figure we’ll get the voters to come out for this election,” Lester said. “It’s going to be interesting to see what kind of turnout we get. However, we’re expecting it to be a heavy turnout.”

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