Voters get a feel of what’s to come with new voting machines

Published: Jul. 16, 2022 at 6:16 PM CDT
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MEMPHIS, Tenn. (WMC) - More than 4,800 people showed up to vote on Friday for the first day of early voting. On Saturday early voters got a feel of what is to come.

While voters cast their ballot for races like Shelby County Mayor and District Attorney, they also got to vote for things like their favorite breed of dog and favorite beach. That ballot, of course, was separate from the real ballot they cast for August’s election. It was a fake ballot so voters could try out Shelby County’s new voting machines.

“It’s very similar to their current experience except a paper trail is involved,” Shelby County Administrator of Elections Linda Phillips said.

The Shelby County Commission approved the ballot marker devices after a contentious battle with the Election Commission. They weren’t approved in time to roll them out for August’s County General Election and state and federal Primary, but they will be ready for the General Election in November.

On Saturday, a new device was at every early voting location to give voters an idea of what to expect in November.

“You can fill out a paper ballot by filling in the bubbles like you used to in school or you can use the touch screen,” Ian Randolph with the Shelby County Voter Alliance said.

Those voting now during early voting or waiting until Election Day on August 4 will use the electronic voting machines the county has had for more than a decade, which Shelby County Administrator of Elections Linda Phillips says are past their sell-by date.

“Virtually all our problems [Friday] for the first day of early voting involved machines that just decided to do something odd. One turned itself off then turned itself back on. We really have no explanation for that,” Phillips said.

Phillips said there were no serious disruptions to the first day of early voting Friday, and 4,821 people showed up. That is about 400 less than the first day of early voting in 2020.

“There are no lines, you can come in when you feel like it,” voter Stanley Ukhebi said.

Phillips said it is taking people about eight minutes to fill out the long ballot though she saw some voters take as long as 20 minutes.

The County Election is a packed one as many of those with lengthy-term limits are up for reelection this election cycle.

“We have judges which along with the district attorney are long elected every eight years,” Randolph said. “So, these choices can impact your life for the next decade.”

Early voting ends July 30.

Phillips said to expect announcements for more events where you can test out the new ballot marking machine between now and the November Election.

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