Magnifying glasses offered after voters report trouble finding Dean’s name on some ballots

MEMPHIS, Tenn. — Shelby County voters are being warned not to select the large-text version of the ballot and are instead being offered magnifying glasses after some voters reported trouble locating Karl Dean’s name.

On the large-text version of the ballot, the Democratic candidate for governor appears on a second page after several independent candidates, while Republican Bill Lee’s name appears first.

Friday, Democratic Congressman Steve Cohen became the latest to voice concerns about the ballot layout.

“There was Bill Lee, the Republican candidate at the top, and then about seven or eight independents listed beneath it,” Cohen said.

Shelby County Election Commission administrator Linda Phillips showed WREG how the ballot appears in its default setting. The candidates for governor are laid out in two columns with Lee and Dean side-by-side at the top of each column.

But when voters select the large-text option, the candidates in the first column are listed before those in the second.

“It was not something that I thought was going to be a huge issue,” Phillips said.

Of the almost 24,000 people who’ve voted so far, Phillips said only a couple have complained about the layout. But Election Commission member Norma Lester said she’s been flooded with calls about the discrepancy since early voting began on Wednesday.

“They felt like they were being deceived or tricked or whatever. That there was a conspiracy,” Lester said.

Karl Dean’s campaign sent WREG the following statement:

“We are very disappointed in how this is being handled. Voters should be able to know when they walk into their polling location who is on that ballot and in what order. We are asking the state Election Commission and the Shelby County Election Commission to have this issue fixed by the time polls open tomorrow morning.”

Phillips said the Election Commission will warn voters not to use the large-text ballot and offer them magnifying glasses to view the regular ballot.

“This is really the only thing that we can do. The ballots are already set. We can’t change the ballot at this point,” Phillips said.

Tennessee law requires ballots to display the candidate for the majority party first, followed by the candidate for the minority party.