MEMPHIS, Tenn. (WMC) - The democrats on the Shelby County Commission accuse the Shelby County Election Commission of unfair practices in the Memphis municipal run-off election. And the commissioners are demanding immediate change.
Eight of the 13 Shelby County Commissioners: Eddie Jones, Jr., Van Turner Jr., Reginald Milton, Edmund Ford Jr., Mickell Lowery, Tami Sawyer, Willie Brooks Jr. and Michael Whaley say they have repeatedly requested equitable practices from election officials. In a press release Tuesday, Oct. 29, the commissioners expressed “utmost disappointment” in how the election commission is administering the current run-off election.
Early voting is underway right now in two Memphis City Council run-off races: District 1, which covers Raleigh, Frayser and part of Berclair, pitting incumbent Sherman Greer against challenger Rhonda Logan. District 7, which includes Mud Island, Uptown, North Memphis and Frayser, has incumbent Berlin Boyd facing challenger Micalyn Easter-Thomas.
The problem, says the commissioners, is that only one polling place is open the first week of early voting -- 157 Poplar Avenue, the Shelby County office building in downtown Memphis. The challengers say this favors the incumbents. The commissioners say this doesn’t allow Memphians equal access to the polls.
“There are no voting locations open in Districts 1 or 7,” the commissioners wrote in their news release. “It is unacceptable that voters in these districts, many of whom have no access to transportation, are being further disenfranchised.”
Linda Phillips, administrator of the Shelby County Election Commission says this is how it’s been done for the past two decades.
“Since early voting started in 1994 the Shelby County Election office building downtown has been the only location for the first days of early voting. The turnout is very low in run-off elections and they’re very expensive,” she said.
Five more early voting locations will open this Friday, Nov. 1:
- Bellevue Baptist Church,
- Bellevue Frayser
- Berclair Church of Christ
- Dave Wells Community Center
- Raleigh United Methodist Church
All six early voting locations will remain open for one week, through Saturday, Nov. 9. But the commissioners say they want the additional sites opened sooner.
“Year after year we have to course correct for free and fair voting to happen in Shelby County,” says Commissioner Tami Sawyer. “It should be protocol by now for the Election Commission Administrator to have locations open in accessible locations during times that are flexible for work schedules.”
“Changing it at this point, the logistics are pretty impossible,” said Phillips
Phillips reminds voters that you can vote at any polling place during early voting, but on election day you must vote at your assigned precinct. Election Day in the Memphis municipal run-off races is Thursday, Nov. 14.