Shelby County one step from approving funding for voting machines

Published: Jun. 1, 2022 at 5:54 PM CDT

MEMPHIS, Tenn. (WMC) - If Shelby County commissioners approve funding for new voting machines, voters will get the chance to decide whether they want a paper or electronic ballot.

Election leaders said after years of fighting over which machine is best for the county, this compromise is their best option.

The jury is still out on whether commissioners agree.

“This has been somewhat of a contentious process, but our need for new equipment has morphed into the emergency range,” said Shelby County Election Administrator Linda Phillips during Wednesday’s Shelby county Commission committee meeting.

Phillips says she is running out of options when it comes to the outdated voting machines.

The May primary election, she says, is a prime example.

Phillips says both back up servers no longer work and the single primary server was more than 10 years old and unable to be serviced.

“And so it’s been having some problems,” Phillips said. “It shuts down or cuts itself off randomly. If it died before we got the election programmed and the cards burned, I have no idea what we would do frankly.”

Wednesday election leaders were back in front commissioners asking for $5.8 million to purchase new voting machines from ES and S Software.

However, one commissioner says news of servers breaking down is all news to him.

“I am quite frankly tired of all these Jedi mind tricks,” said Commissioner Eddie Jones. “This body asked you to do something before you decided to do what you wanted to do.”

Shelby County Commissioners passed a resolution asking election commissioners to only choose paper marked ballots.

Phillips and a majority of election commissioners disagreed, preferring the electronic ballot marking devices.

The disagreement ended with a lawsuit, election commission sued Shelby County Commissioners over not receiving funding for the new machines.

“Where I’m having a problem is when appointed, people can come in here and tell elected officials what they’re going to do,” said Jones.

The resolution to find the new machines passed out of committee, but of the 8 commissioners present, three abstained from the vote.

A vote before the full regular Shelby County commission will be Monday.

If the commission approves the funding, Phillips says the election commission will drop the lawsuit.

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