Voting delays bring renewed call to replace antiquated equipment

Voting delays bring renewed call to replace antiquated equipment
Published: Aug. 3, 2018 at 9:57 AM CDT|Updated: Aug. 3, 2018 at 5:06 PM CDT
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SHELBY COUNTY, TN (WMC) - While the major election races in Shelby County were decided Thursday night, the results did not come in as smoothly as some would have liked.

Polls closed at 7 p.m., but numbers didn't start coming in until 9, and final results weren't tabulated until 11.

Shelby County Administrator of Elections Linda Phillips said part of the delay was caused by poll workers leaving memory cards inside the voting machines at their precincts.

Deputies had to escort the workers back to the polling places to receive them.

But the biggest problem is Shelby County's outdated voting technology. The election commission's website crashed Thursday night, overwhelmed by the high volume of users trying to access it.

The voting machines are so old, the legs collapse on many of them.

Phillips said it's time to upgrade the system.

"Well, we need new equipment," Phillips said. "And there is a proposal. I have a proposal to replace the voting machines, some of them as early as 2019, and all in place by the Presidential election in 2020. And I hope the commission can find the money."

Phillips estimates the cost to do this to be between $9-12 million. Right now, there is $2 million in federal funding to help with the project. 

"It's a big project, and involves replacing a lot of the technology, in fact, all of the technology from the electronic poll books we use to check in, to the voting machines to the servers we use to tabulate," Phillips said.

She's already talked to Shelby County Commissioners about her proposal and said it's been well received so far.

With several newly-elected commissioners, she's hoping they can find money in the budget in-time for 2019 elections.

"Just buying and getting it delivered is a tiny, tiny part of the issue," Phillips said. "We have to revamp our process, we have to re-do all of our training material, we have to educate our trainers, we have to educate our poll workers, our staff has to have training in ballot creation."

Next up for the election commission, they'll certify the election on August 20 before getting ready for the November election.

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