Shelby County Election Commission tests new smartphone program to help voters avoid long lines

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MEMPHIS, Tenn. — The Shelby County Election Commission is exploring a new way to keep voters safe this election year. It’s never been tried in Shelby County before but all you need is a smart phone.

The Shelby County Election Commission, preparing for a big voter turnout in this year’s presidential election, plans to use the new IsoQueue text messaging system. They’re testing it now in hopes of eliminating people standing together in long lines at the polls.

“The basic idea is the voter takes their smart phone. There will be a QR code for the location, and they will check in by using by scanning that QRCODE, and when it’s their turn they’ll get a text message that says come on in and vote,” said Shelby County elections administrator Linda Phillips.

IsoQueue hasn’t been used here in Shelby County before but developer Wesley Owens says some areas of the country are trying it now.

“There’s counties in five different states that’s are already set up and using it and testing it,” Owens said. “Some of them are using it at their DMV offices, department of motor vehicle. We’re all used to waiting in lines there.”

Owens, a Navy Persian Gulf War vet, lives in New Mexico and created the system because of COVID concerns. He sees this as another way to give back to his country. Cities and counties can use it for free.

“My real push for this was for voting, and so since the beginning I wanted to make it free for voting. Because I want to make sure it cost the voters nothing,” Owens said.

He says IsoQueue is simple to use and works with any type of smart phone.

For those who don’t have a smartphone, Owen says precincts can use a device to check people in, assign those voters paper numbers, send them to a specific parking area for people with no cell phones and go find them when it’s their time to vote.

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