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Shelby County Election Commission eliminates more voting precincts

Published: Feb. 21, 2022 at 10:18 PM CST
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MEMPHIS, Tenn. (WMC) - The Shelby County Election Commission eliminated more than 30 voting precincts for the upcoming May primary.

Closing precincts saves money, but at what cost to voters?

At one point, Shelby County voters had 255 precincts countywide where they would go to cast their ballots on election day. In 2020, there were 166 voting precincts open. This year, because of redistricting and cost-cutting, the head of the election commission said there will be 134 voting locations, serving more than half a million registered voters in Shelby County.

Election officials said each polling place that closes saves county taxpayers $3,000 per election. So by closing 30-plus locations, the county will save more than 300,000 during upcoming elections this May, August, and November.

The big question now is where will the remaining 134 voting precincts be located. The election commission hasn’t decided yet.

There is great concern among local lawmakers and voting rights advocates about making sure every Memphis and Shelby County resident has easy access to a polling place near them.

“When we’re able to reduce the number of precincts down to 134, obviously that frees up voting equipment to be able to redistribute throughout the county, so that even though there are more people per precinct, people aren’t having to wait in line as long,” said Brent Taylor, Shelby County Election Commission chairman.

Shelby County Commissioner Van Turner, who is also president of the Memphis chapter of the NAACP, worries that if other voting methods like absentee voting aren’t made available, more Memphis-area voters risk being alienated from the election process.

“We keep reducing these precincts down and I don’t think that is something that supports the franchise,” Turner said. “I think, in fact, it may serve to disenfranchise voters. So, I would hope that if they do reduce these precincts that they are really educating our voters to make sure they know what’s going on and they’re letting them know where they should go vote now.”

Once the 134 polling locations are selected, the election commission will send new voter registration cards out to everyone. On election day, Taylor said the election commission will place poll workers with iPads at the old locations to direct voters to their new voting precinct.

Taylor said the Shelby County Election Commission will approve locations for the 134 precincts at its next meeting Feb. 28, 2022.

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