SHELBY COUNTY, TN (WMC) - The eyes of the nation will be watching the Mid-South on Tuesday.
The Shelby County Election Commission is watching the weather closely Monday night and telling voters to brace for lines at the polls Tuesday.
The Election Commission headquarters took a power hit Monday afternoon for about 45 minutes because of the storms that blew through. They are now back up and running.
The commission is keeping an eye on the evening storms and hoping for no power outages at those polling locations Tuesday.
“People are going through the ballots pretty fast, so I would expect the lines would move pretty rapidly,” said commission chairman Robert Meyers.
Shelby County residents have turned out to vote. The Secretary of State’s office says 188,668 voters cast ballots early, the highest number by county in Tennessee and more than double the turnout in the 2014 midterms.
On Election Day, 166 polling places will be open in Shelby County.
Meyers said they believe 140,000 to 160,000 people will cast their ballots.
“If you’re there at 7, there probably will be lines at 7,” Meyers said. “If you’re there over lunchtime or work or school dismissal then there will probably be lines.”
Devin Ghanor, 24, is a new voter and is prepared to wait.
“You have to be really patient,” Ghanor said.
Election officials say you must go to your specific polling place, unlike early voting where you could vote at any location. You must take your state or federal photo ID, and you should decide who you’re voting for before you get in line.
“A whole lot of people got it taken care of so I don't know if the lines are going to be long or short, but I wasn't going to take that chance,” said Tyrone Lewis.
The Election Commission said if by chance a weather-related power outage causes them to have to move a polling place, they would immediately alert the media.
They are expecting more votes on provisional ballots and have seen higher numbers of absentee ballots.
Voters in Tennessee, Mississippi, and Arkansas will all have major decisions to make at the polls.
In the Volunteer State, voters will elect a new governor and choose a new U.S. Senator. In the Magnolia State, a jungle primary to replace Senator Thad Cochran will likely lead to a runoff. In Arkansas, voters could decide whether to allow four casinos, one which will be at Southland in West Memphis.
“This is a high stakes election,” said WMC Action News 5 political analyst Michael Nelson. “It ought to be an election in which people turn out to vote even if they don’t usually vote.”
The Shelby County Election Commission says they’ve hired extra poll workers and staffers for the county’s 166 polling places. Meyers said they want to be able to push out early and absentee numbers as close to 7 p.m. as possible.
However, Meyers said they will hold results until there are no lines at the polls.
“We’d rather be slow and right than fast and wrong,” Meyers said. “The voters, the candidates, the pundits are all very interested in getting that information, we want to do it as rapidly as we can.”
The election commission has come under fire for slow results in elections past, which officials have attributed to antiquated voting machines.
The machines are now targeted for replacement at a price tag of at least $10 million.
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