No new voting machines in Shelby County for the November election

Local Elections

MEMPHIS, Tenn. (localmemphis.com) — A shocker from the Shelby County Commission Monday. Turns out there will be no new voting machines as promised for the November election.

For now, those problem-riddled touch screen machines aren’t going anywhere.

This surprising turn came as commissioners were expected to approve a resolution urging the Shelby County Election Commission to buy hand-marked ballot machines instead of computer based machines.

Advocates say hand-marked ballots are the best way to ensure elections in Shelby County this November are secure, but tonight nobody can say which machines the county will buy or even when.

There will be no new machines in 2020. No one could believe it when Shelby County Commissioner Tami Sawyer made the announcement especially advocates like Erika Sugarmon.

“I am disheartened that we will not have new voting machines. This is a very serious year,” said Sugarmon. “They’ve had years to deal with this and find the funding. Why are voters just hearing about the funding.”

This new turn comes after a county attorney determined the law requires voters to first approve a referendum on spending the money for new voting machines. Bennie Smith sits on the 5 member Shelby County Election Commission and heard the news along with everyone else and was shocked by the announcement. Smith is a software expert who thinks hand-marked ballots are best.

“Computers can’t necessarily be trusted, and we need to have some low tech safeguards to keep them in check,” said Smith.

Former County Commissioner Steve Mulroy says the only bright side tonight for these paper ballot supporters is they did get the commission’s blessing.

“The resolution passed tonight.”

Even though no one has any idea now when or if Shelby County will get new voting machines.

“It means the County Commission has put the election commission on notice that they only want to pay for hand-marked paper ballots that are not hackable and are not glitchy and won’t cost half as much.”

The commission plans to discuss when it might be able to have a referendum before voters on buying new machines. There could be a special election, but it might have to wait until the November presidential ballot.

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