Memphis lawmakers file legislation to change early, absentee voting procedures

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MEMPHIS, Tenn. —  Local lawmakers have filed legislation that they say will make the counting process more consistent when it comes to early and absentee voting.

Under current state law, the results for early and absentee voting cannot be released until all the polls have closed.

Some counties interpreted that as meaning they could release the results exactly at 7 p.m. even if people were still in line.

Other counties, like Shelby County, understood it to mean that early and absentee voting numbers couldn’t be released until after the last person had voted, even if that meant it had to be pushed back to around 8 p.m.

Senator Brian Kelsey of Germantown said he asked for the state to clarify the situation, to which Attorney General Herbert Slatery stated that Shelby County’s procedures were correct.

On Monday, Kelsey filed new legislation, that if passed, would allow local election commissions to calculate the early and absentee voting numbers early on Election Day and release those numbers at exactly 7 p.m.

Kelsey said the change would be a good thing for Shelby County voters.

“We will no longer have to wait until 7:45pm to hear from hundreds of precincts that all voters have voted before we can even begin counting early votes,” he said.  “We need to get these results to voters as quickly as possible.”

“I think that we should do whatever we can to give the voting public confidence in the process and let them know that everything is fair and equitable,” said House sponsor Rep. John DeBerry. “Early tabulation will engender that confidence. If folks are waiting until 11p.m. or midnight, or the next day to find out what happened in their community’s polls, they wonder. I think that this will engender confidence in the system and the process and make folks believe that they are fully in control.”

The legislature reconvenes on January 14.

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