Election votes to extend hours to cut wait

MEMPHIS, TN (WMC-TV) - With more than 150,000 Shelby County voters already casting their ballots, the Shelby County Election Commission wants to extend voting hours to cut down on waiting time. But extra hours mean extra money - money commissioners they will have to find.

Election Commission Chair Myra Stiles expects that half of everyone who plans to vote in this election will do it during early voting.

"I asked the administrator who's been with us for over 30 years, and he can't remember and I cant remember anytime when we had anything like this number," Stiles said.

With a historic early voter turnout, the Shelby County Election Commission held a special meeting Monday afternoon.

"What we're hoping to do is to vote 200,000 people early, so that on Election Day it'll be easier for the voters. They will have shorter lines," Shelby County Election Commissioner Rich Holden said.

Early voting hours are usually 10am to 4pm. This time, the Election Commission began early voting between the hours of 10am and 7pm. Then, they moved it from 9am to 7pm.

Those additional hours will cost taxpayers.

"The election officials are paid a living wage, which is $12.01 and hour, plus the supervisor is paid more than that so it's significant amount of money when you multiply it by 200-plus people," Holden said.

And then there are the fine details.

"You're going to have to get, in round numbers, 250 people to adjust their schedules in addition to the logistics with the facilities," Holden said.

But even in these tight financial times, commissioners said you cannot put a price on democracy.

"We'll have to find the money to do it because really our job is to make it as easy as we can for the voters," Holden said.

And remember, if you're in line before the precinct closes, you are entitled to vote no matter how long it takes.

The new early voting hours are 8 a.m. to 7 p.m. through Thursday.

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