Free rides will be offered all day (April 28) as part of a partnership to help voters reach early voting locations on the last day to cast ballots early for the May 3 election.

All MATA services are free today (April 28) – the last day to vote early for the May 3 Shelby County Primary Election.

Free rides will be offered all day as part of a partnership to help voters reach early voting locations.

The partnership links the Shelby County Voter Alliance, the Shelby County Election Commission and MATA (Memphis Area Transit Authority).

MATA has identified the bus routes close to early vocations. That information is available at shelbyvote.com.

Ian Randolph (center) of the Shelby County Voter Alliance and Linda Phillips, Shelby County Election Commission administrator, listen as MATA CEO Gary Rosenfeld engages with media about why MATA became a partner in offering free service on April 28, the last day to vote early before the May 3 primary. (Photo: Karanja A. Ajanaku/The New Tri-State Defender)

Ian Randolph, a spokesman for the non-profit Shelby County Voter Alliance (SCVA), said, “This is a huge opportunity to bring equity to the citizens of Memphis and to increase the opportunity for our citizens to engage in the election process and be able to vote.”

Randolph noted that the SCVA team already had been partnering with the Election Commission to spread the word about changes in voting locations that resulted from redistricting.

“The key now is to get people to come out and vote,” he said. “If you do not vote, you do not have a voice.”

Linda Phillips, the Shelby County Election Commission administrator, said making it easier for people in all parts of the city to vote by offering transportation to polling locations is something the commission has long wanted to do. She credited SCVA’s advocacy as key to helping bring that desire to fruition.

MATA CEO Gary Rosenfeld. (Courtesy photo)

CEO Gary Rosenfeld said MATA’s mission was to serve riders by helping them travel throughout the city “to take care of both personal and professional needs. We are proud to offer this service to ensure that they can now take care of their civic responsibilities on April 28 as well. …We have several routes available that are conveniently accessible to polling places throughout the city.”

The partnership with the Election Commission and SCVA is in keeping with “our mobility priority moving us from using public transportation as a last resort to a viable mobility option to improve our lives,” he said.

The all-day free rides are systemwide – including services such as Ready!, Groove on Demand and MATA Plus – and are not limited to those seeking to vote.

“You do not have to say you are going to vote,” Rosenfeld said.

Phillips was involved with a similar effort before coming to Memphis.

“We found that it did increase ridership. It’s really difficult to tell whether it increased the number voting … but we did hear anecdotally from voters that they came out to vote because it was free to ride the bus. We are hoping for that same experience here.”

Randolph, who also is the political action chair for the Memphis Branch NAACP, said, “I am used to setting up rides to the polls from the NAACP standpoint. In the last election, we carried over a couple of hundred people to the polls. … So having MATA step up to the plate, I think we can get even more people to come out.….”

Randolph said the people that the NAACP normally carries to the polls are “people who don’t have cars, are handicapped, elderly and can’t get around real good.”

Phillips said MATA and the Election Commission are sharing the cost associated with providing the free service. She chose not to say how much.

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