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Newspaper Editor Discusses Voter Turnout in Tennessee

Analysts say the results of the close Tennessee Senate race depends on voter turnout, especially black and undecided suburban voters. A Tennessee editor discusses the issue of getting people to the polls.

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  • RAY SUAREZ:

    The Senate seat in Tennessee is being vacated by Majority Leader Bill Frist, who's retiring. Hoping to fill the vacancy are two experienced candidates running statewide for the first time. Former Chattanooga Mayor Bob Corker, a Republican, is running against Memphis Congressman Harold Ford, a Democrat. If elected, Ford would become the first black senator from a southern state since Reconstruction.

    Joining us now with the latest on voter turnout in Tennessee is Otis Sanford, managing editor of the Memphis Commercial Appeal.

    And, Otis, were Tennessee polling places busy places today?

  • OTIS SANFORD, Memphis Commercial Appeal:

    Good afternoon. They were pretty busy today. I talked to an official at the Shelby County Election Commission just before I went on, and the projection is that voter turnout will be pretty high for a non-presidential race today.

  • RAY SUAREZ:

    Now, Tennessee also allows early voting. Did a lot of Tennesseans take advantage of that, as well?

  • OTIS SANFORD:

    Oh, absolutely. As a matter of fact, they set a record for early voting, somewhere in the neighborhood of 860,000-some people voted early.

    The projections in Shelby County for the total turnout may approach 50 percent, and that would be extremely high for an off-presidential election year. By comparison, in 2002, the turnout locally was about 41 percent. So it's pretty high today, but it still won't get the presidential numbers that were garnered in 2004.

  • RAY SUAREZ:

    Was the profile discernibly different at all between eastern Tennessee, where Bob Corker is from, and western Tennessee, where Harold Ford is from?

  • OTIS SANFORD:

    Well, I don't have any specific numbers there. I do know — I think Gwen mentioned it earlier — that it was raining today in east Tennessee. It's hard for me to determine right now what impact that had.

    It was cloudy here in Memphis, but it was not raining, and I think that helped the vote a little bit. But I think the projections are that voter turnout will be pretty high across the state, but still not reaching presidential numbers from 2004.