Shelby Co. Commission close to approving new ballot machines

WATCH: Election Commission says it needs new scanners to speed up counting absentee ballots

MEMPHIS, Tenn. — A large turnout in absentee voters for the upcoming presidential election could cause trouble for the Shelby County Elections Commission if they don’t get new equipment to tally votes.

“The scanners we have doesn’t have the capacity to handle the large number of absentee ballots that are coming in to be counted,” said Brent Taylor, Shelby County Elections Commissioner.

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So, the county commission has made moves toward approving a $6 million contract for 242 new scanners to help speed up the process. It’ll also include 1,100 new ballot voting machines, but election commissioners said they won’t be up and running for this year’s election.

“The machines we have now are 20 years old and they’re beyond their life expectancy," Taylor explained. "As a matter of fact, all we can do is squeeze one more election out of these machines.”

He said new machines are just one of a long list of things the commission has to prepare for in what’s expected to be a big election.

“We’re spending a lot of time, effort and mental energy to get the contract approved to purchase these new voting machines rather than focus on what we need to do for this big election coming up in November.”

In August there were 16,000 absentee ballots requested and voted in.

So far, in September, there are 24,000 absentee ballot requests with 30 days to go before the end of the period.

“We didn’t want to change the voting machines and have to educate voters on how to use the new machines in such an important election in the presidential election,” said Taylor.

The new machines won’t be used until possibly 2021. If approved, the scanners will be used as soon as available for the November election.

2020 may be the last time people vote using older machines before there’s a drastic change.