Shelby County voters head to polls for early voting despite COVID-19 pandemic

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MEMPHIS, Tenn. — The coronavirus pandemic didn’t stop Shelby County voters from heading to the polls for the first day of early voting ahead of next month’s primary.

The Shelby County Election Commission made major changes because of COVID-19. The changes didn’t stop a good number of people from standing in socially distanced lines for early voting.

Most voters wore masks and gloves while waiting. Once inside they were met with new safety measures put in place due to COVID-19.

“It’s very organized,” said voter Roxie Jones. “They give you your own pen and this little so you can just punch in.”

There’s also a plexiglass shield between the voters and poll workers aren’t touching IDs.

“I felt very safe,” said Laverna Dickerson. “The individuals inside are doing an excellent job of ensure we have adequate space and hand sanitizer.”

Most polling locations reported a steady flow of people, with one seeing nearly 60 people in the first hour alone.

The turnout is encouraging to Sammie Clark, who hasn’t missed voting for the last 50 years.

“I remember when my parents couldn’t vote, and they were able to in the 60’s, and I know how important it was for them to have their voices heard. So, I’ve kept the tradition up,” Sammie Clark.

Voters understand this year’s elections will be different due to the pandemic, but it is no less significant.

“If you don’t take advantage of the opportunity to speak out regarding the things that are important and close and concerning you, then you really don’t have the right or opportunity to speak against anything,” Dickerson said.

The election commission is also encouraging voters to bring water and prepare for longer lines due to social distancing.

The polls are open until 7 p.m. tonight, and early voting ends August 1.

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