MEMPHIS, Tenn. — The NAACP, Shelby County Democratic Party and Shelby County Election Commission were back in court on Tuesday regarding lawsuits filed against the commission and early voting scheduling.
The election commission’s being accused of disenfranchising voters by making it more difficult for some communities to get to early voting sites than others.
On Monday, a chancery court judge ruled all 27 voting sites need to open on Monday, which is two days earlier than originally planned.
He also ruled two voting sites need to be added in under-served areas during the first two days of early voting.
On Tuesday, the election commission said they could open those two additional sites in under-served areas, but having the rest open on Monday would be impossible.
They provided an affidavit detailing why they couldn’t open all of the voting sites on Monday, giving reasons ranging from still training people to not being able to access all of the sites to set up in time.
The election commission said they want voters to have equal access and rights, but worry opening sites early would create great danger to the integrity of the election.
However, the attorneys for the NAACP Memphis Chapter and Shelby County Democratic Party said the commission simply needs to have a “can-do attitude” and there are ways to work around the issues.
They offered up ideas like prioritizing training and being more efficient by testing machines and immediately delivering them.
“There is no excuse for the violation of one of our most sacred rights, the most sacred right as a citizen. The right to vote is precious,” said Alexander Wharton, an attorney for the NAACP.
“But bringing the other 21 sites, I believe, online next Monday is impossible. The first five churches that were checked were not available over the weekend so they cannot be set up for Monday,” said John Ryder, an attorney for the election commission.
Ultimately, the judge said those remaining sites now have to open on Tuesday, instead of Monday.
Both sides said they accepted the compromise and didn’t want voters to be affected by an appeals process.
On Friday, the following sites will be open: Dave Wells Community Center, Mississippi Boulevard Christian Church, Abundant Grace, New Bethel and the Operation Center on Nixon Drive.
The locations and opening times should be updated shortly on the commission’s website.
After November elections, there are trials planned for the SCDP and NAACP lawsuits.
The SCDP is accusing the election commission of violating the Open Meetings Act.
The NAACP is accusing the election commission of violating the Open Meetings Act, Election Law and Voting Rights Act.