Election commission abandons Agricenter as early voting site after complaints

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MEMPHIS, Tenn. — The Shelby County Election Commission voted Friday to throw out the Agricenter as a polling location the first five days of early voting after a contentious public meeting.

Instead, Democrats and Republicans selected locations: Abundant Grace church on East Shelby Drive and Bethel Baptist church near Germantown High School will be the only sites open those first five days.

Democrats had complained that the Agricenter, the only polling site from July 18 through the 21, was too far for inner-city residents who might not have vehicles to access. Some claimed it was an effort to disenfranchise Democratic voters, though the Election Commission said the move they say is driven by data.

The commission said they could not open all early voting sites, though that is what some in the crowd wanted.

Theryn Bond decided to take the trip from her Westwood home to the Agricenter on Friday to show just how difficult it is for inner-city Memphians to get to the Agricenter.

"I just bought a pass for $3.50. It’s supposed to last me all day," Bond said. She put herself in the shoes of many inner-city Memphians as she rode a MATA bus Friday demonstrating and documenting on Facebook Live what she calls voter suppression.

“I’m not going to let a decision be made by a governing body that affects my community and the community of so many others,” she said.

She wasn't the first to call out the Election Commission’s change, causing them to call a special meeting Friday afternoon at its operating center on Nixon.

“We want to show the election commission this is what someone would have to go through, these are the links someone would have to go through just to just to exercise their God-given civil right to vote,” Bond said.

She says the Election Commission wasn't taking into account the time and cost of traveling from the inner city, where there’s more Democrats, to the suburban Agricenter, which is closer to more Republican areas.

Bond learned it’s a six-hour round trip on public transportation from her Westwood neighborhood. That includes getting on multiple buses, paying additional fees when she crosses into other cities and then a hike from the bus stop to the building.

“Six hours not counting once I get to my destination,” she noted.

The Election Commission administrator has said the decision was data-driven and the location was chosen due to its central geographical location. In the past, the location has had a well-balanced turnout for both parties.

According to her Facebook Live video, Bond finally got dropped off at 3. She boarded at 11:45.

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