Outdated software could delay Shelby County election results

Updated: Apr. 30, 2018 at 4:22 PM CDT
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SHELBY COUNTY, TN (WMC) - The primary election is less than a day away, and Shelby County election officials are hoping the counting machines can keep up.

During the 2016 election, Shelby County experienced significant delays. Election officials blamed antiquated equipment for those delays. However, the same antiquated equipment is still in use.

"Until Shelby County spends the money for new equipment, we are still using it," said Linda Phillips, Administrator of Elections for Shelby County Election Commission.

Phillips said her staff has been working to get returns processed quicker on Tuesday night.

Technical issues plagued the commission in the 2016 presidential election when it took four hours for any returns to be released.

The state of Tennessee had already been called for Donald Trump before any Shelby County returns were publicized.

"It's always been the practice of the election commission to do the paper ballots first and then start uploading the electronic ballots," Phillips said.

Phillips said the problem in 2016 was the 1950s optical scanner technology that reads absentee ballots.

The scanners kept disconnecting from the internal network, and that held up the tabulation process.

She said an expert will be in town Tuesday to help resolve any problems that could appear again.

"We have tested [and] we are bringing in our vendor's expert on networking," Philips said.

But the holdups of years past may highlight a larger issue–the age of the equipment used to administer elections in Shelby County.

Phillips said they're asking the county for more money so they can perform needed upgrades.

"The bulk of our voting machines you vote on were actually purchased in 2005 and they are at end of life," Phillips said.

The cost of those election system upgrades is between $8-12 million.

Polls open Tuesday at 7 a.m.

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