MEMPHIS, Tenn. (WMC) - Lines continued at early voting polling places across west Tennessee, as Tennessee Secretary of State Tre Hargett said the state’s voters are shattering prior early voting records.
The Shelby County Election Commission reported lines at all 26 polling places to start the day, with lines fluctuating throughout the day at various locations. By 3:30 p.m. on Thursday, 43,802 Shelby Countians had voted since the start of the early voting period Wednesday morning.
By 9 p.m., the Election Commission said 27,761 voters cast a ballot Thursday. It surpasses the old record of 26,877 set on the last day of early voting in the 2008 election when Barack Obama ran against John McCain.
Wednesday’s kickoff to early voting was the busiest for Shelby County since at least 2000, with 26,839 voters casting ballots.
WMC Action News 5 spotted lines at an early voting site in Tipton County on Thursday morning.
“I figured the line might be a little less,” Eddie Foster said.
Foster waited Thursday to cast his ballot at an early voting polling place in Atoka. It’s one of two early voting sites open in Tipton County. Voters there reported waits of three hours on Wednesday.
“This is the first time I’ve early voted here, but it is longer than usual,” Daniel Jinks said.
Daniel and Emily Jinks noted the crowd continued into Thursday.
“It’s moving. We’ve been here about thirty minutes. Most people have been pretty socially distanced, and it’s been good,” Emily Jinks said.
Tennessee Secretary of State Tre Hargett said 273,325 voters cast ballots statewide Wednesday, on the first day of early voting. That is up 91 percent from the first day of early voting in 2016 and 120 percent from 2012.
“Incredible turnout, and today so far is looking really strong too,” Linda Phillips, Shelby County Administrator of Elections said, “If we continue at this present pace, we’re going to run out of voters.”
Anointed Temple of Praise (ATOP) on Riverdale Road remains one of the busiest polling places. WMC Action News 5 saw a line snaked around the building at noon on Thursday.
Jhanelle Hill told us it took her more than an hour to get to the door.
“I was watching Netflix while I’ve been in line, so I’m good," she said, “My husband voted yesterday, and he was in line for almost three hours.”
The Shelby County Election Commission said new check-in equipment is being sent out to sites with higher demand.
“We were delighted to get some additional check-in stations today. We’d had them on backorder for months and months, and obviously, there were serious gaps in the supply chain. But they were delivered this morning, and we’re going to be deploying them at some of our busiest sites to help cut down on lines,” Phillips said.
Election officials said lines have been shorter during the evening hours. All polling places except the downtown precinct stay open this cycle until 8 p.m.
“The thing that drives people to come out and vote is whether they care passionately about a candidate or an issue. And so I think there’s a lot of passion on both sides of the ticket here. And we’ll just have to see how it continues,” Phillips said.