Local leaders battle over how you will cast your vote

Published: Jun. 3, 2022 at 11:17 PM CDT
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MEMPHIS, Tenn. (WMC) - Showdown at the Shelby County Commission.

Next Monday, commissioners will tackle the latest resolution before them to buy new voting machines. The sticking point? What kind of machines should Shelby County get? Are they the safest and most secure?

The Shelby County Commission, comprised of 13 members elected by the voters of Memphis and Shelby County, is at odds with the Shelby County Election Commission, a body with five members appointed by the Tennessee State Election Commission.

They’ve been unable to agree which voting equipment would be better to invest in, with the election commission even suing the county commission over this issue.

A compromise resolution worked out between Shelby County Commission Chair Willie Brooks and former Shelby County Election Chair Brent Taylor is what the county commission will consider next week.

Taylor, who left the election commission to run for state senate, has been replaced as chairman by Mark Luttrell, the former sheriff and mayor of Shelby County.

At a news conference Friday afternoon, Shelby County Commissioner Eddie Jones said the GOP-controlled election commission has no place telling the democratic-majority county commission what to do.

“These are appointed people, trying to step beyond their authority,” said Commissioner Jones, “It’s not us asking. It’s us legally letting the election commission know this is what we want. The law said we can adopt and purchase voting machines.”

The election commission wants to spend nearly $6 million on a new voting system that uses ballot marking devices. A majority of the county commission prefers hand-marked paper ballots, claiming they’re cheaper and less hackable.

The compromise resolution would allow voters to choose whether they want to use a ballot marking device or fill out a paper ballot by hand.

“We have said that we prefer hand-marked paper ballots,” said Shelby County Commissioner Van Turner, “for all the reasons you stated. More secure. Less money.”

Election commission chair Mark Luttrell told Action News 5, “We’re not convinced of that. It’s just not an efficient method. It’s really more costly. People think paper ballots would be so much simpler, but it’s not.”

Linda Phillips, administrative leader of the Shelby County Election Commission, hopes to have new machines for the August 4th election.

The current equipment is nearly two decades old.

“Buying new machines is our only option,” she told Action News 5, “to ensure the integrity of the upcoming elections. The old machines are now operating beyond the manufacturer’s recommended guidelines and needed parts and upgrades are no longer available.”

Commissioner Jones urged Shelby County voters to take a stand.

“If you care about voting in Shelby County,” he said, “I simply say Monday at 3 o’clock, come to our chambers. Voice your opinions and let the commissioners know what it is you want.”

We should note that Shelby County Commissioner Eddie Jones is a candidate in the August election, running for Shelby County Probate Court Clerk against Republican DeWayne Jackson.

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