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MEMPHIS, Tenn. — The Shelby County Election Commission will hold a special meeting at 10 a.m. Wednesday to discuss the purchase of new voting machines.

But there is growing concern over how much input the public will have on the decision to buy new equipment to process paper ballots faster.

Shelby County Election Administrator Linda Phillips says the county needs to be ahead of the curve and they need to be ready as the state is looking to expand paper ballot voting.

“It’s very crucial that we replace our voting equipment. We have a very tight time deadline,” Phillips said. “We have to start mailing out absentee ballots for the August election in June.”

However, some people fear public input on the matter will be hampered if the commission comes to a vote at its virtual meeting Wednesday.

Grassroots advocate Steve Mulroy said the Shelby County Election Commission will choose from a list of proposals but the public has not had a chance to see any of them.

“…They are offering us a chance to do public comments before they do their decision,” Mulroy said. “But, it won’t be informed public comment because we will be blind and won’t have any information on what they are choosing from.”

Mulroy says the public input is crucial before the commission comes to a final vote.

“It’s $10 million dollars of the county’s tax payers money but it also will lock in a voting system for the next 10 to 15 years,” Mulroy said.

Election officials were supposed to hold a public forum but the growing pandemic halted it.

Election Commissioner Brent Taylor say officials are working to make sure public comment is heard more than once.

“Instead of just one comment before the election commission, they will actually be given two opportunities…,” he said.

Taylor says one opportunity will be when the commission makes the initial recommendation to the county and the second opportunity will be when the intent to award the money is signed.

“Next week, Tuesday is the drop dead deadline,” Phillips said. “If they have not made a decision by Tuesday, then we will not be using new equipment until 2021.”

To join Tuesday’s meeting from a phone:

    Dial in # (external): 901-222-2777

    Meeting ID: 9012226803#

    Meeting PIN: 2020#

If you have questions during the meeting you may text them to 901-661-0937.  Please hold your questions until the meeting begins. Questions will be answered at the end of the meeting.