Shelby County Commissioners fail to approve millions for new voting machines

Shelby County Commissioners fail to approve millions for new voting machines

MEMPHIS, Tenn. (WMC) - Voting starts Wednesday in Shelby County and voters will again use the more than decade-old voting machines.

However there’s a battle brewing over purchasing new machines for future elections.

On Monday, Shelby County Commissioners, the funding body for the Shelby County Election Commission, again failed to approve nearly 6 million dollars in funding for new voting machines.

Commissioners still want clarification about how the cost for the new voting machines from ES&S increased from the base bid of $3.9 million to $5.8 million.

“I think it’s unfortunate that the commission, who most of them have never been poll workers, want to tell us what to do because they don’t run elections,” said Linda Phillips, administrator of elections in Shelby County.

Election Commissioner Brent Taylor said the bid was altered for purchase of privacy booths and additional scanners.

“Where I am, and what I’ve seen, it don’t add up,” said Eddie Jones, Commission chair.

Although the voting machines won’t be used until 2022, Taylor says they need the scanners for the Nov. 3 election to process absentee ballots.

“I’m not being hyperbolic when I’m saying that it will be a travesty for Shelby County to be the one holding up election returns statewide because we’re still cramming ballots in the machine that can’t count fast enough," said Taylor.

Taylor says the Commission could not rent additional scanners at this time due to security concerns.

Without the additional scanners, Taylor and Phillips previously said it could take up to four days after Election Day to count absentee ballots.

On Monday, Phillips would not give an exact time frame.

Poll workers had no issues processing more than 16,000 absentee ballots during the August election.

Attorney Steve Mulroy argues there won’t be an issue this time either.

“There really is no reason why we can’t have timely election results if not on Tuesday then on Wednesday along with the rest of the country that’s going to be taking several days, so it isn’t a four-alarm fire," said Mulroy. “It’s not a reason to rush through a $6 million purchase.”

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