Shelby County Election Commission working to make preparations for upcoming election

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MEMPHIS, Tenn. — While is there is still about two months before Shelby County voters head to the polls for the next election, there are plenty of worries over whether the polls will be ready.

An election in the midst of a pandemic is creating changes and concerns. A court ruling allowing absentee voting for all is already being challenged, and now the online absentee ballot request is being called anything but clear.

“For one thing, it is voter confusion,” said attorney Steve Mulroy. “For another, it was an attempt by the state to segregate those voters who had COVID concerns.”

Mulroy represents Memphis residents who advocate absentee voting for everyone.

He says line five on the Shelby County absentee ballot request, listing COVID-19 as a reason not to vote in person, confused things since health reasons were already listed under line three.

“Put the two of them together into one line, take out that confusing fifth line and just use that third line,” Mulroy said. “And say anybody who wants to can just check that box, because they are really hospitalized, physically ill or disabled, or because they have real concerns about COVID in the midst of a global pandemic.”

Those changes were supposed to be made by noon Friday.

That was just one issue. Election commission member Bennie Smith says they also need more people to work the election.

“She has enough workers to cover early voting, and we have to work that much harder to get more workers for election day, because we need a surplus of people,” Smith said.

Those workers have to be trained according to state guidelines. They want to avoid the voting meltdown that happened in Georgia, with long lines and confusion.

“The poll book that Georgia used, we use them here. That is what failed,” Smith said. “But they are necessary to program the machines Georgians would have voted on. So, if you don’t have perfect harmony between those two things, you get long lines. I have a little heart burn for us when it comes to that too.”

The election commission plans to put out ads and use social media to recruit additional  poll workers.

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