Opening voting locations earlier than expected presents challenges

By Staff

MEMPHIS, TN (WMC) – By Friday morning, five voting precincts will be open, and by next Tuesday, they have to be ready to open all early voting locations.

And it hasn’t been easy.

“Well, we worked an 18-hour day yesterday. We’ll be working all weekend,” Shelby County Election Administrator Linda Phillips said.

It’s what you would expect just before the start of an election, but there is a sense of urgency after a court order this week to open all early voting locations a day earlier than planned.

“So when you move a day up, you’ve got to reschedule trainers, you’ve got to find people, you have to squish more work in less time. It’s been kind of challenging,” Phillips said.

Phillips now has to pay more than 200 election workers to work an extra day.

“The commission said they were willing to fund it and so I plan to remind them of that,” she said.

It’s been quite a battle to figure out when and where early voting for the primaries would take place, including an emergency Shelby County Election Commission meeting and two court hearings.

Many were concerned that the original dates and locations disenfranchised certain voters, particularly African-Americans.

“This is not rocket science. This is not their first go round. Hopefully the mistakes, they will admit they’ve made mistakes in this process,” NAACP attorney Alex Wharton said.

“We will do everything in our power to make sure it goes off smoothly, but the loss of that day could be a problem,” Phillips said.