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Ready or Not...

The 2012 election season in Shelby County has now begun.

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Early voting has started in Shelby County for the forthcoming March 6th election, which includes primaries for several county offices as well as for a Republican presidential contest, which, given the back-and-forth of that contest, grows increasingly complicated.

From Wednesday of this week, February 15th, through Tuesday, February 28th, registered voters may cast ballots at the election commission's downtown voting site, 157 Poplar Avenue. Hours are from 10 a.m. to 7 p.m. On the first Saturday of early voting, February 18th, the downtown location will be open from 8 a.m. to 4 p.m.

From Tuesday, February 21st, through Tuesday, February 28th, Shelby Countians may also vote at any of the following 20 locations. Hours are 10 a.m. to 7 p.m., Monday through Friday. Hours for Saturday, February 25, will be 10 a.m. to 4 p.m. at all locations, including downtown.

Agricenter
(Rotunda Hallway) 7777 Walnut Grove Rd., 38120

Anointed Temple of Praise
3939 Riverdale Rd., 38115

Baker Community Center
7942 Church St., 38053

Bellevue Baptist Church
2000 Appling Rd., 38016

Berclair Church of Christ
4536 Summer Ave., 38122

Bethel Church
5586 Stage Rd., 38134

Bishop Byrne High School
1475 E. Shelby Dr., 38116

Bridge at Lakeland
Ste. 106, 3570 Canada Rd., 38002

Collierville Church of Christ
575 West Shelton Rd., 38017

Dave Wells Community Center
915 Chelsea Ave., 38107

Glenview Community Center
1141 S. Barksdale St., 38114

Greater Middle Baptist Church
4982 Knight Arnold Rd., 38118

Mississippi Blvd. Christian Church
70 N. Bellevue Blvd., 38104

Mt. Pleasant Baptist Church
3045 Chelsea Ave., 38107

New Bethel Baptist Church
7786 Poplar Pike, 38138

Pyramid Recovery Center
1833 S. Third St., 38109

Raleigh United Methodist Church
3295 Powers Rd., 38128

Riverside Baptist Church
3560 S. Third St., 38109

Shiloh Baptist Church
3121 Range Line Rd., 38127

White Station Church of Christ
1106 Colonial Rd., 38117

Voters are reminded that, for the first time, they must carry to the polls with them a state- or federal-issued photo ID. Tennessee secretary of state Tre Hargett took to the airwaves for two 30-second spots this week to reinforce that news. There are a few exceptions to the new policy, which is the result of legislation passed by the 2011 Tennessee General Assembly. Hargett promises to explain these at GoVoteTN.com or 877-850-4959.

• Meanwhile, as one cycle begins, another formally ends. Or so it would seem.

Word came Tuesday that the Tennessee Court of Appeals, meeting in Jackson, has ruled against the losing candidates (all Democrats except for one judicial candidate who ran in a nonpartisan race) on the August 2010 general-election ballot.

The appellate court said the candidates had failed to prove that "fraud or illegality so permeated the conduct of the election as to render it incurably uncertain."

Some parties to the suit have relentlessly insisted that other factors besides "fraud or illegality" should be reckoned with — namely, glitches and irregularities of the sort that saw numerous voters turned away from the polls on Election Day because they were erroneously shown on the rolls as having early-voted.

But the plaintiffs are running out of venues to hear their case. Presumably, only the state Supreme Court remains, should it agree to hear a further appeal.

That 2010 countywide election saw a sweep of contested races for Republican Party candidates — this, despite what would seem to be an edge in voter registration for Democrats, who are thought to be a numerical majority in Shelby County.

The onset of photo ID-voting has Democrats worried again this year. Party officials at both local and state levels allege that the photo ID law was enacted precisely in order to hobble Democrats at the polls, their reasoning being that several voting groups who traditionally have voted for Democrats — notably African Americans, students, and seniors — are disproportionately inconvenienced by the new law.

FIRST PEEK

Among the candidates who appear on the countywide election ballot are those for general sessions clerk, county assessor, and district attorney general.

One of the first opportunities for voters to see candidates for these offices en masse occurred last week in a "Meet the Candidates" forum at the Benjamin L. Hooks Central Library.

Incumbent district attorney Amy Weirich, a Republican, was on hand, but her Democratic opponent, Carol Chumney, was absent. Candidates for general sessions clerk and assessor were all present and accounted for, however, except for Republican clerk candidate Rick Rout.

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