MEMPHIS, Tenn. (WMC) - The Shelby County Election Commission reported no major issues as voters headed to the polls for the first day of early voting county-wide.
The turnout was record-setting. Just shy of 8,000 votes were cast by noon. That number was up to 12,677 by 2 p.m. and 19,600 by late Wednesday afternoon.
By the close of the day, the Shelby County Election Commission reported 26,839 people cast ballots Wednesday. It was the largest number of first day early votes since 2000 when computerized records started being kept.
The Shelby County Election Commission said the busiest day of early voting from 2000 to the present was the last day of early voting for the 2008 presidential election when 26,877 voted. The first day of early voting that year 16,265 people cast ballots.
Voters waited in lines across the county, with waits ranging from 30 minutes to three hours. Lines stretched out past precincts as poll workers asked voters to maintain social distancing both inside and outside of the polling locations.
“Things are crucial out here. Everybody wants their voice to be heard,” Kisha Young said.
Most voters said they did not mind the lines and expected there to be crowds.
“I wanted to make sure the vote was done early, and that it was secure and cast,” Audrey Bishop said.
Shelby County’s administrator of elections told WMC Action News 5 that the heavy turnout was expected amid national enthusiasm over the 2020 presidential contest.
“There’s just a lot of interest in this election. There just is. We’ve had a spike in registrations, just a lot of people want to vote. And I’m glad. I’m happy about that,” Linda Phillips, Shelby County administrator of elections, said.
“This is a very important election. It’s going to go down in history I’d say,” Thurmon Edwards, who told WMC Action News 5 that he votes early in every election, said.
For many in line, recording their choice early and in person is a job the COVID-19 pandemic would not stop. Voters said they were glad to get this task behind them.
“It’s been such a stressful election season. Once you cast your vote your duty is sort of done,” Jeff Posson said.
Most early voting polling places are open until 8 p.m. during the week. Find a list of polling sites here.
The downtown early voting location at 157 Poplar Avenue closes at 6 p.m. during the week. The county has secured free parking outside that precinct for voters.