Confusion pinpoints weak turnout in District 91 early voting - FOX13 News, WHBQ FOX 13

Confusion pinpoints weak turnout in District 91 early voting

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MEMPHIS, Tenn. (FOX13) -

For years the Shelby County Election Commission has come under fire from various political candidates for perceived and admitted mistakes in conducting the voting process.

But, the election commission chairman says his office is not taking the blame for the low early voting numbers for the Democratic District 91 legislative race where less than 600 ballots had been cast as of Wednesday.

Still, candidates and voters think the commission should have done more to educate the populace on changed district lines.

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As a registered voter for years in legislative District 87, Memphian Mollie McLin, widow of the late former State Criminal Appeals Court Judge J.C. McLin, has been steeped in the importance of exercising her right to vote. So, imagine her consternation when a candidate for the District 91 special election asked her for her vote on Oct. 8.

"I won't be voting, because it's not in my district," McLin said. "She said, 'Yes, it is!' I said, "No, it's not!' She said, "Yes, it is!' I said, "No it's not! My card says 87. Had it not been for that conversation I wouldn't have known. Had I not been able to vote, I would have been extremely upset."

But, Mrs. McLin's story of lack of information is pinpointed by candidates, in the election to replace the late Lois DeBerry, as the reason for a confounding early voting low turnout at the polls. It's confusion many again blame on the beleaguered Shelby County Election Commission for not informing voters of a change in the makeup of District 91 as of last year.

"Part of 85 has come over to 91," said Clifford Lewis, District 91 candidate. "Part of District 86 has come over to 91. These people where not aware of that at all."

"It makes this special election even lower," added Terica Lamb, District 91 candidate. "It's going to make the turnout look even lower cause a lot of folks that would have normally voted did not know that they needed to."

However, Election Commission Chairman Robert Meyers told FOX13 News by phone the commission is fulfilling its legal obligation by informing voters of only precinct changes. Anything more would include a hefty price tag for taxpayers.

"I think the law contemplates people will be keeping up with that information and that information is essentially well-publicized in the newspaper," Meyers said. "Quite frankly, it would cost about $500,000 to mail everybody a card."

But, with only five days left before the election, going into Thursday, a mere 534 votes had been cast early, half of them at one location - the Riverside Baptist Church on South Third. With nearly 33,000 registered to vote in the realigned District 91, the candidates are still looking for someone to blame besides their obvious failure to ignite the electorate's interest.

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