Election commission says new machines needed for faster results, IRV

MEMPHIS, Tenn. — If you felt like you waited a long time for results last night, you're not alone. Election officials partly blame the delay on old and inefficient equipment.

And now a change in the way Shelby County votes might make them completely obsolete.

Election Commission Administrator Linda Phillips spoke frankly about hiccups and delays in Shelby County election results.

"It's just the realities of using a 15-year-old computer system," she said. "To scan absentees, every time I go in there I cringe. Because that's technology that debuted in 1954. It's older than I am. So it's time for it to go away."

For that to happen, Phillips estimates the County Commission would have to spend around $12 million on new equipment, including machines and infrastructure.

"Our server is ancient and slow. Very slow," she said. "I do hope the Commission will fund new voting machines in 2019, so we can live through the presidential election in 2020 with modern equipment."

"There were funds set aside by the state a while back, and those were never used. We want to investigate and see if it's still remaining from the state," Commission Chairman Van Turner said.

After that, Turner said he was committed to funding the new equipment with local money, especially since Instant Runoff Voting will have to begin next year.

Phillips said the current machines can handle it, but it would be a makeshift system.

Turner said the Commission will go over funding for the machines when it does its budget in the spring. Phillips hoped to have them in place for municipal elections later in 2019.

WREG also asked Turner about the Shelby County Election Commission's policy to wait to release results until every ballot has been cast. That caused results delays until nearly 8:30 p.m.

He said he understood why they did it: so everyone feels like their vote counts. But there may be ways to modify the policy.

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