Election commission votes against FedExForum as early voting site

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MEMPHIS, Tenn. — In a Tuesday afternoon vote, the Shelby County Election Commission officially rejected FedExForum as an early voting site.

Along with other NBA teams, the Memphis Grizzlies had volunteered the arena as an early voting site in June.

Shelby County Election Administrator Linda Phillips rejected the offer, but Commissioner Bennie Smith said she did so without first taking the matter to the commission for a vote.

“It’s disturbing to see that you have already declined this when there was time and now we are having to put it in its proper forum 100 days after you have already declined it,” Smith said at Tuesday’s election commission meeting.

Outside, nine Memphis area pastors lay face down on the ground in prayer prior to the meeting calling on God to have the commission approve using Fedex Forum.

“We’re gonna give him this worship and then let him be in the meeting. He’ll take care of it,” said Rev. Kenneth Whalum.

Defending her decision to not use the Fedex Forum as an early voting site, Phillips cited the difficulty of installing private internet lines there, the lack of nearby parking and even the forum’s exclusive food vendor contractors which she said would make it costly to feed poll workers.

“If you’ve been in there, you know you pay $12 for a thing of nachos and $5 for a coke, you can imagine what the prices would be for that,” Phillips said.

FedExForum will still be used to count absentee ballots and will serve as an emergency polling location.

Early voting begins October 14 and ends October 29.

The commission approved a measure extending early voting hours due to COVID-19.

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