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Early Voting: The Surge

Early voting totals seemed to take a jump once the final tally was posted today at the Shelby County Election Commission.

What had seemed like a vote total that would maybe top 45,000 in the race for Memphis mayor has jumped to a total of 49,288.

Here’s why:

The Election Commission has been posting daily totals on its website, www.shelbyvote.com, and had been separating the early vote totals in the Memphis Mayor’s race from those in the pair of primaries for State Senate District 31.

The problem, according to local Election Administrator Richard Holden, is some of the voters in the State Senate district are also city residents eligible to vote in the Memphis Mayor’s race. District 31 takes in parts of Germantown and Cordova. The Cordova precincts include areas within the city of Memphis and areas in unincorporated Shelby County.

Of the approximately 6,500 voters who participated in the two uncontested state Senate primaries, Holden said only 631 voted in the primaries only. The rest also voted in the Memphis mayor’s race.

Keeping in mind that the turnout numbers are unofficial, subtracting the 631 voters leaves 48,655 voters in the mayor’s race. That amounts to 11.5 percent of the 423,049 voters in Memphis.

The Election Commission statistics show everything but who the voters chose from the 25 candidate field. By those statistics, 49.8 percent of the early voters were black and 28.7 percent were white. The remaining 21.5 percent were “other”, a category that includes voters who chose not to reveal their race on voter registration forms. Most of the early voters, 62.7 percent, were women.

The statistics also show which election day precincts the early voters live in. In the precinct breakdown, the highest precinct early voter turnout was in Glenview. 27.9 percent of the 1,500 voters in precinct 31-04 cast early votes. Voters in the precinct vote at Glenview Community Center on election day. The community center was also an early voting site.

The East Memphis precinct, 56-03, which votes at White Station Church of Christ, another early voting site, had a 22.8 percent turnout in early voting.

Precinct 75-05, which votes at Lakeview Elementary School, posted a 22.3 percent turnout.

And 21.2 percent of the voters at the East Memphis 57-00, which votes at Independent Presbyterian Church, voted early.

Our plans for election night include tweets as the vote totals roll in. We expect to have the early vote totals at around 8 pm Thursday evening and we’ll post those results on The Daily News website. We’ll tweet more as the election day totals come in. And look for a recap on the website once all of the unofficial totals are in.

Vasco Smith

Funeral services are Friday for Vasco Smith.

Much has been written and said about the former Shelby County Commissioner and civil rights leader since he died Monday.

With his wife, Maxine Smith – the long time executive secretary of the Memphis branch of the NAACP and a Memphis school board member – the dentist from South Memphis provided much needed leadership.

That leadership took Memphis from the whitewashed version of Mayberry civic leaders of the 1950s, 60s and early 70s wanted us to believe the city was to the much more complex version of a big but unique city that Memphis has always been.

Vasco Smith brought the truth to our civic discussions and deliberations. Whatever discomfort that caused – and at times it was most uncomfortable – it was done in the spirit of someone who cared deeply about Memphis. He could be a fiery advocate for his point of view. But Smith could also come to terms with those who met his determination with an equally well thought out counter argument. To get there, you had to rise to the occasion and the result usually got all of us closer to some lofty goals. Those goals weren’t easily obtained. We are still working toward some and many will be works in progress for some time.

Relegated to the sidelines of officialdom in the 1950s and 60s, Smith was restless and not content to remain a sideline critic. He wanted political power for the best of reasons – because he wanted a voice and a seat at the table in the community he loved and called home.

The best evidence of his intentions was the life he built as a small business owner and a homeowner. He lived in the city he worked to improve. What Smith saw and experienced in his everyday life informed his actions as a political leader. And when he retired from elected office in the mid 1990s, it was to a life that informed his political identity.

In the late 1960s and into the mid 1970s, the Smiths were the most hated public figures in some parts of this city. They never talked about the full extent of the hatred they experienced on a daily basis in the smallest personal ways as well as what passed for political rhetoric by “leaders” of the day. It had an intensity that others might have felt compelled to return with hatred. Somehow they kept their eyes on the goal. They maintained an unwavering belief that on the other side of the ordeal was a better day. And most important of all, they continued to fight with the belief that the means are just as important as the end result.

They opened their home to one time adversaries as well as allies. They attempted to talk with those who remained adversaries.

Not all of the battles came with a clear victory. Some will point to court ordered busing as a failure that has resulted in a defacto racial segregation between the two public school systems as opposed to schools within one school system. To pin the failure on any one person is much too simple. To believe the issue is over is naïve. Already there is a heavy undercurrent in the discussions about single source education funding and consolidation that suggests it isn’t realistic to talk about either issue without dealing with the question of why Shelby County needs two public school systems.

In the life of Vasco Smith is the guide for how we should approach that civic discussion – honestly, passionately and openly.

It is common for political leaders to make a big deal out of how they are just like you and me. In too many cases, there is nothing there beyond the practice of politics. They might as well be a cardboard cut out. And aside from the personal tragedy of a life that thin, it is also dangerous. Those whose existence and identity depends entirely on winning elected or appointed office lack a necessary reality that brings a value and vitality to the practice of politics.

Vasco Smith never forgot that politics must have a larger purpose than living to practice politics for another day or another term.

Dansette

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