Effort underway to increase voter turnout

Updated: Apr. 26, 2018 at 5:54 PM CDT
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SHELBY COUNTY, TN (WMC) - Thursday is the last day of early voting in Shelby County.

Records show roughly 5-and-a-half percent of registered Shelby County voters have cast ballots during early voting.

There is also an effort underway to increase turnout in this election and others.

Turnout is still expected to be fairly low on election day next Tuesday, but that's not stopping some community leaders from encouraging people to go vote.

"Our fundamental goal is substantially and significantly increasing voter turnout in 2018, 2019, and 2020," Reverend Earle Fisher said.

A new coalition in Shelby County called "Up the Vote 901" is an effort by a variety of groups to increase the number of people who cast ballots.

Fisher said it's non-partisan.

"We don't organize around individuals or individual candidates," Fisher said. "We've been trying to organize and cultivate people to get engaged with issues specific to their particular neighborhoods."

The activities include canvassing areas in the city and working with SCS to reach out to area high school students with leaders.

They acknowledged some of the significance of voting has been lost over the years. Their goal is to restore it.

"I am a voter collaborative – the economic cycle has changed," said Vanecia Kimbrow said. "Mom is not necessarily going to the poll so that means the child didn't get to see mom or grandma going to the polls and so they're not connected to that process."

Statistics from the Shelby County Election Commission show as of Wednesday, fewer than 33,000 voters have cast ballots, with the highest number coming from District 9. That includes the southwestern part of Shelby County.

Officials at the election commission said turnout is up from similar elections, but a direct comparison is difficult because early voting availability has expanded.

Despite the positive trend, they expect turnout to be less than 20 percent.

"We always plan for 20 percent, but I think we'll be lucky if we get to 12," said Linda Phillips, Administrator of Elections for Shelby County Election Commission.

Primary election day is next Tuesday, May 1

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