Shelby County Commissioners debate new voting machines

Local Elections

MEMPHIS, Tenn. ( – It was expected. People thought Shelby County Commissioners would have a feeling about what voting machines to buy, even though they don’t make the choice.

Election Administrator Linda Phillips says election commissioners are looking at two systems: a touch screen computer that prints out a paper record of the vote, and a more traditional paper ballot that is electronically scanned.

Earlier this week, Phillips told us the paper ballot would cost $2 million less at first, but would cost $14 million more than the touch screen at the end of ten years.

Printing up those ballots would be expensive, she says.

According to Phillips, “In a typical election, I would print 580,000 ballots. If 20% of the people came out to vote, I am essentially landfilling 400,000 pieces of paper after two years. You have to save it for two years, mind you. Then we can shred it and landfill it.”

Some commissioners want to officially urge the Shelby County Election Board to buy the paper ballot system.

“Personally, I think this urging is very necessary,” says Commissioner Tami Sawyer. “We all saw what happened in Iowa and I know that is considered a fluke.”

The Election Commission is going to have to make a decision that will mean folks will have one voting system to use for at least the next ten years.

Board member Bennie Smith disagrees with Linda Phillips, saying, “With the light of what is happening nationally with tampering, election errors, election problems, this is just part of the process that does not need to have as much technology. This is a low-tech area.”

You’re going to hear a lot more about this. There is still time. They’re not even looking at buying the machines until March.

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