By Tony Jones

MEMPHIS, TN — An extra-long ballot awaits Memphis, Shelby County, Arlington and more voters for the Thursday, August 4th, 2022 election, potentially increasing early voting participation as the word gets out about the long list of decisions at hand. 

Early voting begins Friday, July 15th, from 11 a.m. to 7 p.m. weekdays; 9 a.m. to 5 p.m. at the commission’s downtown office. On Saturday, July 16th and 23rd , voters can cast their ballots from 10 a.m. to 4 p.m. at all locations. The final day will be Saturday, July 30th , from 8 a.m to 4 p.m. everywhere. 

Choices for judges, primaries for state and congressional representatives, African American candidates New Chicago CDC Executive Dir. Dr. Carnita Atwater and City Councilman J.B. Smiley, Jr. and Dr. Jason Martin are competing in the Democratic Primary to challenge Gov. Bill Lee, but without a doubt, the election’s lightning rod is the District Attorney race between Republican incumbent Amy Weirich and Democrat opponent Steve Mulroy. 

Early speculation that the race will be decided strictly on racial lines was bolstered by media reports from a candidate forum sponsored by the Black Clergy Collaborative at St. Andrew A.M.E. Church in late June. The long-standing landmark marks the edge of one of the city’s poorest zip codes, 38106, known as Lauderdale Sub, where residents have waited decades for non-fulfilled rejuvenation. This is my neighborhood and I can honestly report that long before this latest challenge, Weirich’s name is used as profanely as a curse word around here, the very personification of the pipeline to prison law enforcement model many consider perfected in Shelby County. 

Available at District Attorney Candidate Forum – YouTube, it’s hard to imagine two more divergent viewpoints on how to fight crime and restore more order to Memphis streets. In May, Weirich was joined by Mayor Jim Strickland to support the new “truth in sentencing” law requiring 100% time served for several types of felonies, including attempted first-degree murder, vehicular homicide and car-jacking. Stating it will be costly and non-effective, Gov. Lee refused to sign it into law. 

Mulroy and others critics say it will only churn out more broken former prisoners to neighborhoods like Lauderdale Sub.

Strickland says they’re wrong. “I want the young person, if they have a gun, to think for a second before they pull that trigger. Because if there’s a swift, severe punishment, they are more likely to have second thoughts in doing it.”

More black voters may have more commonality with that point of view than it seems. Paraphrasing conversations regularly heard at the Cash Saver on Third Street, a five-minute drive from where the forum was held, everyday people regularly say they’re getting sick and tired of excuses being made for the thug behavior which seems to come up with a dangerous new twist on foolishness every day. 

“First it was the sagging pants, now they’re running through stop signs and red lights like a complete bunch of damn fools,”…“And it’s not just those drive out tag cars, a lot of them have nice cars. New cars! Maybe they’re stealing them, who knows?”…“Two of them ran through the stop sign on my way here. And they do it with their own kids in the car. It’s sickening,”… “Ungrateful little ******** got more than any black kids have ever had and look how they act. Jobs everywhere, but they keep getting their stupid behinds locked up. Quit acting such a fool you won’t get into so much trouble.”

Unlike City Councilman Worth Morgan, the Republican challenger to County Mayor Lee Harris, “Our District Attorney,” (as her signs plastered all over east Memphis state) Weirich has no campaign signs in the strip at Southgate Shopping Center where these comments were captured.

Gov. Lee also had a recent hand in another hot button ballot item, the Shelby County Clerk race pairing incumbent Wanda Halbert against Republican challenger Jeff Jacobs and Independent Harold C. Smith. Long lines to get car tags has kept the race at the forefront, but Lee recently approved the state’s waiving it’s portion of the fee for one year, potentially benefiting Halbert who has been the object to strong public criticism due to the issue. 

Finally for now, politicos say people need to be aware of the referendum asking them to increase term limits for some municipal offices. Commonly referred to as “a down ballot item” in political circles, it’s at the very bottom of the book long list of decisions awaiting voters when early voting begins. 

A sample ballot is available at: August 4 2022 Sample ballot CL Updated_0.pdf (electionsshelbytn.gov)