Big fight looming over new voting machines in Shelby County

Local Elections

MEMPHIS, Tenn. ( – This is a big year for elections. Obviously.

It’s a Presidential election year, and in Memphis and Shelby County, this might be the year you see new voting machines.

Then again, it might not be.

It seems every year there is an election in Shelby County, somebody complains. The battle ends up in court, and the Shelby County Election Commission is normally found victorious.

And then there’s another election, or a primary, like March 3rd.

Election Administrator Linda Phillips says most people have been using the online registration system.

“You can register online until midnight, February 3” she said. “In order to register online, you have to have a record with the Department of Safety. Either an ID card, a handgun permit, or a driver’s license.”

If you register, the primary vote will be using the old voting machines that Shelby County has used for 20 years. They are slow, they do break down, and they’re old.  

But by golly they’re ours.

So it is time to buy new machines: either a computer that prints out a paper trail of how you voted -that’s called a ballot marking system – or a more traditional voter marked paper ballot.

According to Linda Phillips, “Generally, voters prefer ballot marking systems because they’re easier for them to use. And we don’t live in a world where everyone can hand mark paper ballots.”

We also don’t live in a world where everybody agrees on everything.

University of Memphis Law Professor Steve Mulroy gets hacked off when he hears this coming from Linda Phillips.

“I am of the consensus of the experts, which is hand marked paper ballots,” Mulroy said, “… which is used in 38 states. Because computers can be hacked, but voters can’t be.”

Phillips says that’s not true, but all this debate means there is a good chance new machines won’t be in place for November.

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