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Chancellor modifies early voting order; all locations will be open on July 17

Now hear this: Early voting starts on Friday (July 13) and five sites will be open. Then on Tuesday (July 17), all 27 early voting locations will be open to cast ballots for the Aug. 2 election.

The fact that all early voting sites will be open on Tuesday reflects Chancellor JoeDae Jenkins’ decision to modify an order he issued on Monday. He had ruled that all the early voting locations be open on Monday (July 16).

Pushing back the opening a day came at the conclusion of a hearing on Tuesday. The hearing was an appeal of sorts after Jenkins’ ruling on Monday involving the consolidated lawsuit brought by the Shelby County Democratic Party and the Memphis Branch NAACP.

In Tuesday’s hearing, Shelby County Election Commission officials asked Jenkins to consider giving them until July 17 to open all locations – one day earlier than their intial plan.

“I have warned a long time that this is going to be damn near impossible,” Election Administrator Linda Phillips said on Tuesday.

Essentially, Jenkins met the contending parties in the middle.

Originally, attorneys for the NAACP requested Jenkins require the Election Commission to:

1) Add two more early voting locations during the first two days of early voting: Mississippi Boulevard Baptist Church (Midtown) and the Ed Rice/Dave Wells Community Center (Frayser)

2) Open all polling places on July 16, the first Monday of early voting.

The Election Commission first designated the Agricenter off Walnut Grove Road open during the first four days of early voting. That stirred serious pushback, spurring assertions of voter suppression and disenfranchisement of some voters.

In response, the Election Commission removed the Agricenter from the picture. It then designated Abundant Grace Fellowship Church, New Bethel Missionary Baptist Church, and the Election Commission headquarters on Nixon Dr. as the options for the first few days of early voting, with all other locations set to be open on July 18.

With Jenkins’ Tuesday ruling, the Election Commission moves into overdrive before polls open Friday. Officials have to make sure the facilities are well-staffed and that machines are up to par.

“The election commission says it would be tough, but not impossible,” Jenkins said.

Polls open up at 7 a.m. Early voting extends through July 28.

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