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Early Voting Changes In Shelby County Spark Concerns

MEMPHIS, Tenn. (localmemphis.com) - We're nearly two weeks from early voting in Shelby County and there are some last-minute changes. 

The changes come after controversy over having the Agricenter as the main early voting site, during the first four days.  Although the election commissioners decided on a compromise, some people are still not pleased.

Last night at a special called elections commissions meeting, tempers flared as these location changes were decided.  A majority of democrats were upset that the changes come in the middle of an election cycle. 

There were some other last-minute hiccups that caused officials to go into overdrive.

"The Memphis City Council special election for super district 9 had different deadlines for candidates to qualify so the withdraw deadline for candidates to qualify was the Monday just passed. Which means we couldn't finish building the ballot until Tuesday. We didn't get approval from the state until Thursday you can’t do logic and accuracy testing until you have approval from the state so that's why we're working this weekend," said Linda Phillips, administrator for the Shelby County Elections Commission. 

Combine that with a last-minute compromise to drop the Agricenter as the only location for the first four days of early voting.

"This is problematic because you are not to change a schedule under the 45-day deadline in just two weeks before early voting with no plan to educate the community on the schedule," said London Lamar, President of Tennessee Young Democrats.

Dozens of people attended a special meeting Friday night, asking the commission to open all 27 early voting locations on July 13.  In return, the commission decided on a compromise.  Three locations will open on July 13th.  They include New Bethel Missionary Baptist Church in republican heavy area of Germantown.  Abundant Grace Fellowship Church in democrat heavy area of Whitehaven and as a requirement, the Election Operations Center in Shelby Farms will be open.

"With the May primary, you saw a 5 percent increase in total voter turnout and a 7 percent increase in early voting turnout because all locations and times were open," Lamar explained.

Phillips says election officials have been doing ballot testing which will continue into next week to ensure everything on the ballot is correct.  Tuesday, July 3 is the last day to register to vote in Shelby County.  Early voting starts July 13th.


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