Early Voting Update – And What About That Charter Amendment?

Just Do It!

Four days of early voting is in the books and turnout continues to be strong. Today I’ve got an update on the numbers (through July 16th) and an explainer of the County Charter Amendment.

As with every post through the end of early voting, a map of locations is included at the bottom.

Early Voting through July 16th

Day 1 Day 2 Day 3
August 2018 1868 902 1554
August 2016 851 44 2881
August 2014 889 261 6687
August 2012 471 108 5055

*Note: Day 1 totals include absentee and nursing home voting collected prior to that day.

Now you might be asking yourself, “self, why the big difference between this year and 2014 or 2012? Is this some kind of “low turnout” trend that started in 2016?”

My initial answer is no. There are some significant differences between the elections listed. I’ll go through them briefly.

First, the third day of early voting in August elections is typically the first day all EV locations open. That didn’t happen this year. That is the single biggest difference between this year and the previous years listed.

Second, August 2012 was the first election of the post-charter surrender Shelby County School Board. There was also a special election for DA, and several other countywide posts. The state legislature changed the terms of these posts so they all are elected in the same year now.

Third, August 2014 was a County General election. Like every previous August election, the third day of early voting was the fist day all locations were open. This explains the huge difference in turnout between this year and 2014 (similar elections).

You could argue that by offering limited EV locations this year on Monday, the Election Commission itself depressed turnout on that day relative to previous years.

This runs contrary to the Election Commission’s opinion, stated in testimony before Chancellor Jenkins, that the number of locations available doesn’t impact turnout.

The numbers aren’t out for Tuesday yet, but I suspect they will bear this out.

We shall see.

County Charter Amendment

I’m no legal expert, but my good friend Steve Mulroy is. He posted an explainer of the County Charter Amendment here. I’m going to do my best to distill his analysis.

This is all about salaries for elected County officials.

Currently, the County Commission votes on pay increases for elected officials. This includes their own pay.

Under the Charter Amendment, salary adjustments would happen automatically when the state legislature adjusts salaries for state employees.

Mulroy says: “if you don’t want County elected officials to get paid more, vote no. If you do vote yes.”

Mulroy notes two complicating factors:

First is that this puts a lot of pay power in the hands of the state legislature. As he says,

“…maybe you’re ok with raising their salaries, but you don’t like transferring authority from the County Comm’n to some automatic formula set in Nashville.(Or, maybe you don’t trust the County Comm’n, so you LOVE that power transfer idea.)”  – Steve Mulroy 

But the County charter amendment doesn’t stop the Commission from further adjusting salaries.

The other complicating factor is this doesn’t cover the salary of County Commissioners. So they wouldn’t receive any automatic pay updates.

My thoughts on the Amendment

As the County legislative body, charged with approving a budget. That includes salaries.

I’m against the Commission giving up any budgetary authority to the State.  It doesn’t matter that could be undone or adjusted.

I voted no.

Adjusting salaries, including their own, can be a political time bomb for any elected legislative body. Many people, including all local media, portray any salary increase as a kind of self-dealing exercise. This is an unfair, and frankly, ignorant blanket characterization. Its also pretty lazy reporting.

When local media treats any pay increase for elected officials as self-dealing, or “spending your money on themselves”, they ignore that elected officials are providing a service. This kind of reporting devalues that service. It also exacerbates a continuing problem with elected public service: that its a game primarily for the well-to-do or wealthy.

I don’t know about you, but I don’t go to work unless I get paid. We shouldn’t expect any less for our elected officials.

And as Mulroy notes, the Commission is paid as a part-time position, even though that’s a stretch. Commissioners spend a lot of time outside of meetings preparing and evaluating the issues coming before them. So while its true most Commissioners have a day job, maybe we’d get better and more thoughtful legislation if our Commissioners were paid better for their time. Maybe not.

Activists also get upset when salaries are increased, but funding for services aren’t increased or expanded. This is a much more valid complaint.

But again, maybe the Commission could address these issues better if they had to spend less time chasing a paycheck at their day job. Maybe not.

Ultimately, any discussion of elected officials pay is a tightrope. Its also what these folks signed up for when they pulled a petition. Suck it up.

Early Voting Continues

Early Voting continues through July 28th at the locations shown below. Clicking on each location shows the days and times each location is open. You can also get directions to each location from wherever you are.

Go vote!


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