Torrey Harris attends his victory party after defeating incumbent Rep. John Deberry to represent the Tennessee House of Representatives in Dist. 90. Photo by Hannah Grabenstein for MLK50

11:01 p.m. — Torrey Harris defeated incumbent Rep. John Deberry, an ousted Democrat, to represent the Tennessee House of Representatives in Dist. 90.

“George Floyd should have never lost his life. Philando Castile should have never lost his life. Folks, we need to find a way for our voices to matter,” said Harris during his victory speech.

Related: “Angry for having a little bit of hope.” Progressive Memphians’ fears materialize in somber election night

Marquita Bradshaw’s attempt to be the state’s first Black senator fell short; not long after the polls closed at 7 p.m., with just 3% of precincts reporting, the Associated Press called the race for Republican Bill Hagerty. 

7:21 p.m. – Stay with MLK50 for more election news, as our reporters and photographers check in at candidates’ watch parties.

Supporters for Democrat Torrey Harris, who is vying for the House Dist. 90 seat against former Democrat and now Independent John DeBerry, will watch the election results at the Curry N Jerk restaurant Downtown. The event also will be streamed.

Just after 7 p.m., the Associated Press called the U.S. Senate race for Republican Bill Hagerty, who beat Democrat Marquita Bradshaw, the first Black woman selected by the party to run for the Senate. Her watch party is scheduled to be held at the DoubleTree by Hilton Hotel Downtown.

We also will stop by the Gen Next Political Action Committee party at WKND Hang Suite on Vance, and join Democrat Gabby Salinas who is running for the Dist. 97 state House seat against Republican John Gillespie, at her virtual event at 8 p.m. – Peggy McKenzie

7:01 p.m. – And now, we wait. Polls have closed in Shelby County, but if you are in line: Stay there. Election officials must allow anyone in line when the polls close to vote. MLK50 reporters saw no lines and no waiting at the polling sites they visited Tuesday.

The last voter at Dave Wells Community Center in North Memphis? Charlotte Evans, 55, who voted for Biden.

“I was waiting on my roommate to go with me,” Evans said. “He said, ‘We’re going to go, we’re going to go.’ And he decided not to but I wanted to.”

So she did. – Hannah Grabenstein

As the polls close Tuesday, a worker removes the tape to mark the distance for voters to social distance from the floor at the Dave Wells Community Center. Photo by Andrea Morales for MLK50

5:04 p.m. — It was relatively quiet at a get-out-the-vote block party at Christ Missionary Baptist Church in South Memphis, but the Rev. Earle J. Fisher said he attributes low Election Day voting numbers to a high early voting turnout. 

“In 2016 Christ Missionary Baptist Church was one of the lowest performing precincts in the city in terms of turnout. So we wanted to try and do some phone banking and some canvassing and some amplifying of this location,” Fisher said.

Montrail Mitchell, 7, plays with balloons while his mother, Whitney, was working outside of Christ Missionary Baptist Church on Tuesday afternoon during the Election Day Block Party. Photo by Andrea Morales for MLK50

He’s the founder of #UPTheVote901, a voter outreach campaign with the goal of increasing education and turnout.

“This is a very impoverished neighborhood, under-resourced neighborhood so we want to try to continue to build some political power in this neighborhood,” he said.

“Electoral politics is not the ceiling of civic engagement, it’s the floor. Regardless of what happens this evening, our work transitions tomorrow into the next phase and the next layer of what we envision this movement becoming.” – Hannah Grabenstein

3:30 p.m. – There was no wait to vote at The Pursuit of God Church in Frayser, where some young people cast their ballots unenthusiastically.

Keosha Henry, 22, said she felt unsure about both candidates in the presidential race. “I really don’t even know how to feel,” Henry said. “Either way, whoever wins, I just feel like America messed up.”

Henry said she didn’t want to vote, but her mother encouraged her to help vote Trump out of office.

Cairo Tatum, 25, said it was his first time voting and he felt an “uneasiness.”

“It doesn’t feel like it will get better, but it’s just going through the motions hoping to slowly push forward. At least a little bit,” Tatum said. “I usually just give up and stay home, but you can only give up and stay home for so long.”

Tatum said he probably wouldn’t have voted if it were not for the encouragement of his girlfriend, and the feeling that America’s political division is reaching a breaking point.

“Everything’s really foreboding right now,” Tatum said “And on either side, there’s bound to be extreme pushback.” – Carrington Tatum

3:27 p.m. — A few residents stood in line at the Bartlett Post Office, the county’s lone post office accepting absentee ballots on Election Day. There was one line for all visitors – including those who were buying stamps to place on ballots. The post office closes at 6 p.m., but will accept absentee ballots until 6:30 p.m., a postal employee confirmed. The post office is in Bartlett, well outside of the county’s center and where most of the population is. – Shiraz Ahmed

Related: Mailing last-minute ballots prompts confusion, conflicting information at Bartlett post office

Customers wait in line at the Bartlett Post Office on Election Day. The Bartlett location is the only one in Shelby County accepting absentee ballots today. Photo by Shiraz Ahmed for MLK50

2:25 p.m. — The Alpha Delta Lambda alumni chapter of Alpha Phi Alpha fraternity bused voters to the polls Tuesday, hoping to eliminate transportation as a barrier to voting for some Memphians.

Joyce Conner, 65, caught a ride from her home at Borda Towers to her polling site at the Lewis Senior Center on a bus provided by the Memphis chapter of the Alpha Phi Alpha fraternity on Tuesday morning. Photo by Andrea Morales for MLK50

Oscar Sueing, a member of the fraternity and organizer of the event, hung banners that said “Souls to the Polls” on two Tennessee Limousine Service buses to advertise the free rides. He said his fraternity is providing transportation because some people want to vote but don’t have the means.

Conner puts her sticker on her jacket after voting. She usually rides the bus to get around, but said it would have taken her hours to get to her polling location with public transportation. Photo by Andrea Morales for MLK50

The first bus arrived at its first stop — Paul Borda Towers near the medical district — about 10 a.m. Joyce Conner, who is blind in one eye from cataracts, was the only passenger. She said despite her disability, it is her duty to vote.

“We just need to vote, it’s a privilege,” said Conner, 65. “A long time ago, [we weren’t] allowed to vote and now we got that privilege, we can vote.”

Conner rides the bus to get around, but she said it would have taken her hours to get to a polling place with public transportation.

“It would be harder, but I would get there,” said Conner. “It’s a thing that young people need to see — the old folks voting. They got to get ready because this is coming for them, this age,” said Conner.

There was no line when Conner arrived at the J.K. Lewis Senior Center on North Parkway to cast her vote. She checked her registration, cast her vote and got back on the bus. Afterward, she said it felt “good.”

“I handled my business,” said Conner. — Carrington Tatum

1:21 p.m. — At Mt. Nebo Baptist Church on Vance, 45-year-old Anthony Johnson voted for the first time. Despite following the news pretty closely, he’s never felt like his economic situation fit neatly along party lines, so he never voted. 

Anthony Johnson, 45, stands for a portrait outside of Mt. Nebo Missionary Baptist Church after voting on Tuesday morning. Johnson said he was hoping for a “blue wave.” Photo by Hannah Grabenstein for MLK50

But this year, he’s felt like Republicans have been “bending all the rules,” like forcing through conservative Supreme Court Justice Amy Coney Barrett despite not considering former President Barack Obama’s nominee in February of his last year in office. He’s hoping for a “blue wave,” so Democrats can respond to Republicans and “do them the same way.”

He cast his first vote for former Vice President Joe Biden.

A few minutes later, Pamela Williams, 63, left the polls at the same church having cast her second vote for President Donald Trump. She doesn’t think Biden is “the one,” she said.

Pamela Williams, 63, stands for a portrait outside of Mt. Nebo Missionary Baptist Church after voting on Tuesday morning. Williams said she voted for Donald Trump. Photo by Hannah Grabenstein for MLK50

“Our nation is in a world of trouble right now. And so we really need somebody in office who knows,” she said.  “I mean each individual person may not know everything but somebody has to be able to run this country and, you know, get us back in order – besides God,” Williams said. – Hannah Grabenstein

12:37 p.m. — A good phone number to remember if you encounter any problems at the polls today.

11 a.m. – The alumni chapter of Alpha Phi Alpha Fraternity was taking voters to the polls in 25-passenger vans that will carry half as many passengers. The first stop: Paul Borda Towers off Madison Avenue, near the Medical District Downtown. Reporter Carrington Tatum is there and will have a dispatch soon. – Wendi C. Thomas

A voter talks with reporter Carrington Tatum as Alpha Phi Alpha Fraternity takes people to the polls. Photo by Andrea Morales for MLK50

Related: The best of times – or the worst of times: What changes for you under a Trump or Biden administration?

10 a.m. Shelby County was the bluest county in the state by far in the 2016 presidential election. In the Southwest corner of the state, 61.4% of voters picked Hillary Clinton, compared to 34.2% for Donald Trump, who went on to win the White House.The only other two counties where a majority of voters chose Hillary Clinton were Haywood (Jackson, Tenn.) and Davidson, which is home to the state capitol, Nashville.

The reddest counties? Wayne County due east of Memphis, and Macon and Scott counties in northern Middle Tennessee. Find out which way your county leans on Data USA’s new civics tab. – Stephanie Wilson

A sign reads “Don’t Forget To Vote” outside of Mt. Nebo Missionary Baptist Church in South Memphis. Photo by Andrea Morales for MLK50.

8 a.m. – One hundred bipartisan teams of two ballot counters each began processing absentee ballots not long after polls opened on the floor of FedEx Forum, beginning an arduous day of counting more than 25,000 ballots. 

Each team has one Democrat and one Republican, identifiable by a blue or red sticker on their name tag, and they’ll work through the day until every ballot is processed. 

That involves counting boxes of ballots and confirming each envelope has only one ballot and each ballot has a signed affidavit. Then, they bring the boxes to a machine which processes the votes.

Absentee ballot counting at FedEx Forum on Election Day, Nov. 3, 2020, in Memphis, Tenn.
Two hundred ballot counters in teams of two — one from each major political party — checked in early Tuesday morning at FedExForum to process absentee ballots. There are more than 25,000 ballots to count today. Photo by Andrea Morales for MLK50.

If there’s something wrong with a ballot – for example, if the voter wrote their name or address on the ballot itself – each member of the team will attest to its being voided or its rejection by signing the ballot or its envelope. 

Because the counters are likely in for a long day, they’ll get breakfast, lunch, dinner, snacks, coffee and sodas – plus they’re paid $190. They also had to surrender their cell phones after checking in, since they can’t communicate with people outside of the Forum. – Hannah Grabenstein

7 a.m. – Voters at Whitehaven Community Center, just after polls opened, said they couldn’t vote early or didn’t trust the postal service for absentee voting.

“This is the first time I’ve been out of the house in weeks, but I didn’t trust the USPS,” said Sam Baker, 62, who first voted in 1977. He described his emotional state as anxious and excited.

“I’ve been a Democrat all my life. I was so disappointed to see Republicans infringing on our right to vote,” said Baker, who cited Trump appointee Postmaster General Louis Dejoy’s recent attempts to enact operational changes to the agency. The changes were slammed by Senate Democrats for occurring in the run-up to a major election.

Sam Baker, 62, voted at Whitehaven Community Center in Memphis, Tenn., on Election Day, Nov. 3, 2020.
Sam Baker, 62, voted at Whitehaven Community Center in Memphis, Tenn., just after polls opened on Election Day. Photo by Shiraz Ahmed

One voter expressed disappointment at both party’s presidential nominees.

“I didn’t vote last time [in 2016],” said Devin Allison, 31, after exiting the poll. Now, “I’m older, and I got talked to crazy by my whole family. What’s going to happen is going to happen (in the presidential election). I care more about the state level.” – Shiraz Ahmed

Check back throughout the day for updates from journalists Shiraz Ahmed, Brandon Dill, Hannah Grabenstein, Peggy McKenzie, Andrea Morales, Carrington Tatum, Wendi C. Thomas and Stephanie Wilson.


(From left) Dr. Carnita Atwater, Girlee Brewer and Shirley McGee-Shack dance to the Electric Slide while hanging out at the Election Day eve rally at U.S. Senate candidate Marquita Bradshaw’s headquarters on Monday, November 2, 2020. Andrea Morales for MLK50

U.S. Senate candidate Marquita Bradshaw traveled from Johnson City through Nashville to the final rally of her campaign outside her South Memphis headquarters on Lamar Avenue, and she was running late. As her supporters waited Monday to hear from her, some did the Electric Slide to stay warm in the chilly night air.

Some Memphians in attendance felt optimistic that they could make history this election season by propelling Bradshaw to the Senate, flipping a long Republican-held senate seat in a usually red state. Tennessee last sent a Democrat – Al Gore Jr. – to the U.S. Senate in 1984.

Brandon McCord stands for a portrait at the Marquita Bradshaw campaign headquarters. Photo by Andrea Morales for MLK50.

Brandon McCord, 28, said Tennessee’s current Senate representation is “definitely not Memphis.” For example, he said, take the state’s reluctance to remove Confederate monuments.

”Being a majority Black city in the South, it’s like this state isn’t for us,” said McCord. “It never really was.”

McCord said that is why he is hopeful about Bradshaw’s push for the Senate, not only because she has made history as the Democratic Party’s first Black woman nominee but because they come from the same part of town. 

“For a Black woman to come from south Memphis, I don’t know how to put it into words,” said McCord.

Nearly an hour passed, Bradshaw arrived, thanked her supporters and encouraged them to vote as well as bring their friends and family to vote.

Fighting back tears, she answered one last question from reporters about what it means to her to come from South Memphis and be running for Senate.

“Even though we saw how manufacturing jobs left our community, we still pulled together, and we faced our adversities, and we did [it] together. And that’s the grit and grind of Memphis to be proud of, that you can come from South Memphis and you can work hard to be a U.S. Senator,” said Bradshaw.

U.S. Senate candidate Marquita Bradshaw speaks to the media at the Election Day eve rally at her campaign’s headquarters on Monday. Andrea Morales for MLK50

“That’s the story, that no matter where you come from, that we can get to the U.S. Senate working together.”

Bradshaw is running against Republican Bill Hagerty, who is white, to replace Sen. Lamar Alexander who is retiring and also white. – Carrington Tatum

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