MEMPHIS, Tenn. — Shelby County voters are heading to precincts around the county, testing out what it will be like when early voting starts next week.
Early voting starts next Wednesday for Shelby County, and the Shelby County Election Commission has made a lot of changes to polling locations.
“A little over a third of the voters will have a new voting location, but overall, an enormous number of voters had district changes,” said Elections Administrator Linda Phillips.
The changes include where you vote and who will be on your ballot. So, the Election Commission is holding an open house Thursday night to give everyone a run-through of what to expect on Election Day.
Instead of 166 precincts, there are now 142.
“We also had some precincts that were too small, and were really really strangely drawn, and we had a number of precincts that took cohesive neighborhoods and just kind of arbitrarily went down the middle of them,” Phillips said. “So, we wanted to make an effort to keep neighborhoods together.”
But many worry these changes, plus limiting the number of places for early voting in the first three days, will disenfranchise some voters.
“For the last 20 years, we’ve never opened more than one location for the first day of early voting when Holy Week intersects early voting,” Phillips said.
A lawsuit has been filed over the changes, but election officials say it’s likely too late to change anything. But the Commission has partnered with Shelby County Voter Alliance, made up of 50 nonpartisan organizations, to increase voter turnout and promote racial equity at the ballot box.
“People want to hear from a trusted messenger. Sometimes they don’t trust the government as much as they would let’s say their union, or their church, or another organization that they belong to,” said Ian Randolph with Shelby County Voter Alliance. “We encourage everybody to come out and early vote. If you don’t vote, you don’t have a voice.”
The open house continues through 7:00 p.m. Thursday night. You can go to any precinct to find out information, or visit your new or regular precinct to get the layout of things.