Shelby County Election Commission to purchase touch screen ballot marking devices for upcoming elections

Updated: May. 7, 2020 at 10:20 PM CDT
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MEMPHIS, Tenn. (WMC) - A decision has been made about the way Shelby County voters will cast their ballots later this year.

Thursday election commissioners sided with the recommendation of Elections Administrator Linda Phillips and chose to purchase touch screen ballot marking devices for upcoming elections.

Thursday’s 4-1 vote comes in direct conflict of what Shelby County commissioners asked them to do.

Remember the board of commissioners approve the funding of the voting machines.

Shelby County commissioners passed a resolution last month stating that they prefer hand marked paper ballots, primarily over concerns surrounding COVID-19.

Commissioners were concerned about the spread of the virus when voters had to use shared equipment to vote such a stylus or actually touching the screen.

But the election commission disagreed.

"I don’t think we should make a long-term capital project outlay based on a short-term panic over COVID-19,” said Brent Taylor, Shelby County Election Commissioner.

Phillips says the touch screen ballot marking devices comes with more benefits.

It will cost the county about $9 million less than paper ballots over the lifetime of the machines.

It also requires about 500 fewer poll workers, and it's easier to use for people with disabilities.

But hand marked paper ballot advocates say their issue is with intent.

When you use a pen to mark a ballot there’s no question what the voter wanted -- but there was a bit of a compromise at the end.

The machines will be able to process paper ballots as well, so voters will be able to opt out of the touch screen machines.

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