Shelby Co. Election Commission prepares for new machines after approved funding

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SHELBY CO., Tenn. (localmemphis.com) — Shelby County Commissioners passed a $1.3 billion budget earlier this week, which included $2.6 million for new voting machines.

The current voting machines are aging, according to Shelby County Election Commission Administrator Linda Phillips. 

Those machines were bought in 2006, and after the 2020 election would be considered obsolete because the vendor will stop operating its programming.

Shelby County Mayor Lee Harris had tried to deny the funding after he left it out of his budget proposal. Harris said funding would come when problems were fixed within election operations such as long wait times for election results.

Ultimately, Harris didn’t win that battle but a statement was made that improvements need to be made.

In recent years, Phillips said there’s been an increase in problems with the fading machines.

“A lot of our problems come in processing paper absentee ballots and the newer systems are much, much better,” Phillips said.”

The new machines will still have touch screens, but will also provide a printed copy after the vote is cast. That way voters can make sure their selections are correct.

“These have been very good machines for the 13 years we’ve had them but they are at the end of their life,” Phillips said. “They don’t have a voter verifiable paper trail so this way the voter will be able to see the votes that they’ve cast. They’ll be able to check the names on a piece of paper.”

Phillips believes the new units will help with voter confidence.

“I think for voter confidence, I think it’s important that we get a paper trail in place for the presidential election,” she said.

The new machines will also be ADA accessible.

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