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Push to make FedExForum voting site fails

Updated: Sep. 22, 2020 at 9:55 PM CDT
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MEMPHIS, Tenn. (WMC) - More than 25 early voting sites for the upcoming November election were approved Tuesday night. FedExForum was not on the list, despite a small protest before the meeting and a last-minute push by Election Commissioner Bennie Smith.

“If I had a little more time, I probably could have won another one of my colleagues over, nonetheless this is the way this process is supposed to work,” Smith said.

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An amendment to add FedExForum to the list of voting sites failed by a 3-2 vote.

The Grizzlies offered up the arena in June but was declined by election administrator Linda Phillips. Smith was upset that he and the rest of the commission was not told about the meeting with the Grizzlies beforehand.

Phillips said FedEx Forum was not a good location.

“Even if you could get the internet installed there, it would raise our costs phenomenally or it would make life very difficult for voters,” Phillps said during the election commission Sept. meeting.

Phillps said voters would have to walk a mile and a half from the surface lot of FedExForum and back to their cars in order to cast their ballot. She says if they opened the parking garage, it would cost the county additional funds to hire security, parking, and elevator attendants.

However, Smith sees the needed extra personnel as much needed jobs for the community.

Plus it would keep people safe in the midst of a pandemic.

“If you consider on election day there can be long lines than we didn’t alleviate COVID concerns because the lines are going to be longer plus you have to put 6 feet social distancing, so that can be a recipe for a reasonable size nightmare,” Smith said.

Phillips says she has added additional safety measures.

This year voters will be able to use their smartphones to scan QR codes off a web page to see how many people are in line at any given moment.

Plus the election commission approved extending voting hours at all early voting locations.

All early voting precincts except for the Shelby County Election Commission building downtown will be open an additional hour from 9 a.m. to 8 p.m.

FedExForum will be used to count absentee ballots on election day.

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