The Look in Brief

Shelby County Commission defers funding bump to election commission

By: - March 1, 2022 6:00 am
Shelby County Commission. (Photo: Shelby County Government)

Shelby County Commission. (Photo: Shelby County Government)

The Shelby County Commission deferred a motion to increase the county Election Commission’s budget despite an upcoming deadline to alert voters of precinct changes. 

Commissioner Tami Sawyer referred to recent controversial changes to voting in Memphis.

Republican-controlled committees approved the state’s legislative and congressional maps despite testimony that Black voters were being disenfranchised in key cities, including Nashville and Memphis.

In Memphis, the Shelby County Election Commission eliminated more than 30 voting precincts ahead of the upcoming May primary and haven’t released information on where the remaining voting precincts will be located.

"Martin Luther King, Jr. is rolling in his grave," said Shelby County Commissioner Tami Sawyer of precinct changes. (Photo: Karen Pulfer Focht)
“Martin Luther King, Jr. is rolling in his grave,” said Shelby County Commissioner Tami Sawyer of precinct changes. (Photo: Karen Pulfer Focht)

Sawyer said the eliminations were an effort to disenfranchise Memphis voters, a majority-minority county, and called for the motion to be voted down or deferred.  

“They’ve been threatening to sue us and now they want us to compromise and give them almost half a million dollars so they can notify Black people that they’re cutting our precincts?” said Sawyer. “Martin Luther King (Jr.) is rolling in his grave.”

Members of the election commission were at a meeting and could not attend the county commission meeting. A spokesperson answered commissioners’ budget questions, explaining that the $359,600 price tag was due to paper shortages, which left the election commission at the mercy of vendors.

More than 280,000 voters need to be informed of their new voting precincts and voter identification numbers before the May primary, eight weeks away.

Precincts have also changed from numbers to letters. Memphis is labeled as “I,” which Sawyer viewed as arbitrary and confusing. 

“I would like to see the concept of this card before it goes out and commissioners having some say if you want these dollars. I want to know what you’re saying to our voters,” said Commissioner Reginald Milton. 

The item was deferred until March 9.  


Our stories may be republished online or in print under Creative Commons license CC BY-NC-ND 4.0. We ask that you edit only for style or to shorten, provide proper attribution and link to our web site. Please see our republishing guidelines for use of photos and graphics.

Dulce Torres Guzman
Dulce Torres Guzman

Dulce has written for the Nashville Scene and Crucero News. A graduate of Middle Tennessee State University, she received the John Seigenthaler Award for Outstanding Graduate in Print Journalism in 2016. Torres Guzman is a member of the National Association of Hispanic Journalists. She enjoys the outdoors and is passionate about preserving the environment and environmental issues.