MEMPHIS, Tenn. — One day before early voting begins Wednesday, Shelby County election officials are dealing with thousands of invalid voter registrations because of problems in the applications.
Election officials say between 3,000 and 5,000 voter registration applications are missing key information, like names, Social Security numbers or addresses. Some list “201 Poplar” as an address. Felons are also trying to register, and some people have tried to register multiple times.
It’s unusual to have so many problems, they say. The majority of the problem applications are coming from one organization, the Tennessee Black Voter Project.
The commission said about 55 percent of the 10,000 applications the group submitted were found invalid because they were incomplete, they were duplicates from previously registered voters, they had address changes, they were from people that are too young, they were illegible or they came from convicted felons.
The Tennessee Black Voter Project filed a lawsuit Monday in Shelby County Chancery Court asking a judge to allow the group to inspect voter registration forms that the county’s Election Commission has rejected.
This year, the Shelby County Election Commission is processing 24,000 new voter registration applications, more than in 2016. About 10,000 of those came in on Oct. 9, the last day to register.
To keep up with the backlog, election officials say they are working night and day. They’ve added a second shift and sometimes start as early as 6:30 a.m.
There will be a help desk readily available for those who come across problems while trying to vote.
Election officials say they will examine how they do early voting registrations in the future.
Van Turner, chairman of the Shelby County Commission, called on the election commission to work with the all organizations registering residents to vote, including the Tennessee Black Voter Project, to ensure that every affected registrant has the opportunity to validate their application.
“Tennessee voter participation rates are terribly lower than most states in the nation,” Turner said. “We should applaud and encourage every effort to increase participation in our elections—especially a non-partisan effort where registration forms were submitted for more than 36,000 new voters in Shelby County, TN. We owe every resident in this great County, from those who registered for the first time in 1968 to those who registered for the first time in 2018, access to the ballot box.”
For early voting polling site information, go here.