HomeNewsEarly voting hours challenged at Election Commission

Early voting hours challenged at Election Commission

As the Madison County Election Commission met on Thursday, they accomplished their main goal of officially scheduling the hours for early voting for the upcoming City of Jackson municipal elections.

But the move didn’t come without a few minutes of discussion.

Three people who’d asked for permission to speak beforehand – Madison County Democratic Party Chairman Larry Greer, Madison County Democratic Women President Debbie Swacker and Madison County Republican Party Chairman Brad Greer.

Larry Greer and Swacker urged the Commission to adjust hours from where they’ve been since 1994 when early voting was first established – 9 a.m. until 4 p.m. Monday through Friday and 9 a.m. until noon on Saturday (beginning April 12 until April 27) because people who work and can’t get away from their jobs aren’t able to vote early, which may also mean they can’t vote on Election Day – or voting is more difficult – on May 2. They cited voting hours in counties outside Madison have more hours and are more accessible to people who work during the day all week.

Brad Greer urged the Commission to keep the hours where they are so the election itself doesn’t cost more than it already does and because these voting hours – which were established when the Democratic Party was the majority party in the county – have worked OK for nearly 30 years. He also cited election law that says employers are to allow their employees three hours of paid time off to go vote.

Commission Secretary Wendy Trice Martin – one of two Democrat members of the Commission – disagreed with Brad Greer.

“Just because something worked in 1994 doesn’t mean it works in 2023,” Trice Martin said. “Things change, times change, people change and change is a good thing.

“And I think it’s time that we as Madison County – one of the largest counties in West Tennessee – become a part of the change instead of letting everyone change except us.”

Republican Phyllis Means said workers have the legal ability to leave work for a little while to go vote. Democrat Lovette Brooks cited her own work history as a nurse at Jackson-Madison County General Hospital that if every employer allowed workers to leave, not everyone can because someone has to be present at some places for safety purposes.

“And not every employer will allow their workers to leave even if it is the law,” Brooks said.

“Then they don’t want to vote badly enough,” Means said, to which there were audible reactions from the audience before Chairman Mike Bledsoe threatened to clear the room of people if they didn’t calm down.

Trice Martin explained that if a person is trying to work to feed their family and keep the utilities on at their house and leaving their job to go vote may mean the end of their job and their income, then they’re probably going to choose to feed their family because they probably can’t afford a lawyer to fight for them anyway.

Trice Martin then looked at Election Administrator Lori Lott asking her what she wanted to do. Bledsoe says Lott’s job is to carry out what the Commission votes for her to do.

“I’m just here to do what I’m told, which is whatever y’all vote to do,” Lott said.

Means then called the question, forcing the vote on the issue, which was passed 3-2 in favor of keeping the hours the same.

In another move by the Commission, the voting precinct that was at Bascom CME Church off Windy City Road is moving to the gym at Sacred Heart of Jesus High School on McClellan Road.

“We needed a place with better lighting, and while this site is technically just outside its district, it’s not that far away and easily accessible,” Lott said. “We tried to move it to other places actually within the district, but we couldn’t get anyone that would allow us to be there.

“And we needed to move from the church because as great as the church is to work with, there are lighting issues there after dark and my workers didn’t want to go back.”

Brandon Shields, brandon@jacksonpost.news

- Advertisment -

Most Popular

Recent Comments