It’s hard to believe it’s been a year since I moved from Indiana to work for the Shelby County Election Commission as Administrator of Elections. And what a year it has been! In the time since I arrived, we’ve had a Primary and General Election as well as three special elections.
This year was supposed to be an “off year,” and the only scheduled election was the upcoming Arlington Municipal Election. Yet earlier this year, three special elections were suddenly added to the 2017 calendar. The business of running an election commission demands that I ensure my staff is ready to spring into action and conduct an election at any time the situation may call for it. When we are not conducting elections, there is plenty for the staff to do, like processing the hundreds, or sometimes thousands of voter registration applications that pour into our office each month. We also are available to answer questions from voters or potential candidates. We are here to serve the citizens of Shelby County. If there is anything we can help with related to voting, or registering to vote, please let us know.
Town of Arlington Municipal Elections
Early Voting Sept. 1 – Sept. 16, 2017 at Arlington Town Hall – 5854 Airline Road
General Election Sept. 21, 2017 - Polls open from 7 a.m. to 7 p.m.
Voter Registration Deadline – August 22, 2017
SCEC BRINGS VOTER EDUCATION PROGRAMS TO LIBRARIES
SCEC is working to bring voter education programs into the city libraries. The first programs will be held at the Raleigh Branch Library located at 3157 Powers Rd. and will be on the times and dates listed below.
Educational sessions that will be available are:
Running for Office – Ever thought of throwing your hat in the ring for a political position? This class offers instructions on the process, how to complete the paperwork, filing deadlines, and what to expect. August 16, 2017 11:30 a.m. -12:30 p.m.
Voting 901 – a basic class on how to use voting equipment and what to expect at the polls for those who will vote for the first time. Participants are offered a tour of SCEC at a different date and time. September 20, 2017 11:30 a.m. -12:30 p.m.
Senior Voices Through Votes – A little skittish about electronics and computerized voting machines? This class includes step-by-step instructions, as well as the opportunity to test out the equipment. October 18, 2017 11:30 a.m. -12:30 p.m.
Voting Rights Restoration – Have legal problems in the past that resulted in the loss of your right to vote? It’s usually not permanent, but if you want to vote again there are steps you must take. This class details things you need to do to have your voting rights restored. November 15, 2017 11:30 a.m. -12:30 p.m.
Election Mythbusters – There’s been a lot of buzz about alleged election hacking. Attend this class to find out why Shelby County is safe from hackers. December 20, 2017 11:30a.m.—12:30 p.m.
We will also offer classes for younger people. They are::
Facts for Future Voters (Ages 13-17) – Information for teens about voting, mechanics, motivation and civic duty. Voting machines are brought for demonstration, and we hold a mock election with ballot items of interest to teens. September 5, 2017 4:30 p.m.
Never Too Young (Ages 8-12) – Voting machines are brought in and an election is held for elementary-age school children. Ballot items include items like, favorite cartoon character, favorite super-hero and favorite outdoor activity. October 9, 2017 at 10:30 a.m.
Keep an eye on our website for more information about library locations, dates and times of the classes.
CITIZEN’S UNIVERSITY MAKES STOP AT SCEC
SCEC regularly takes part in Citizen’s University, a semi-annual program run by the county government. Participants are given the opportunity to visit a different division of county government during each of the 12 sessions. The sessions are held in the evening, and attendees at SCEC’s session enjoyed a light buffet, followed by a tour of the facility.
“It was a very engaged group,” Linda Phillips said of the group of 25 participants. “They asked a lot of good questions.” The session at SCEC lasted a total of about 90 minutes.
People who are interested in participating in the Citizen’s University program should contact the coordinator, Diane Brown at 222-2012.
COMING SOON! Online Campaign Finance Portal
Candidates are required to file periodic Financial Disclosure forms with SCEC that details the amount and source of funds they have in their campaign budgets. Soon, candidates, or their treasurers, will be able to complete the forms online.
Each candidate will be assigned a PIN, so the information can only come from someone with access to that number.
“This will make it easier for the candidates, and for members of the press, or public, who want to look at the information,” said Linda Phillips.
The portal is scheduled to “go live” by the end of July, and the goal is to have documents for the past five years scanned in and up on the website at some point.
“That may take a little while,” Phillips said, “but we’ll get there.”
A Valid State or Federal ID is required to vote.
Linda Phillips gives tour of Operations Center to participants in a Citizen's University class.
WHAT’S RANKED CHOICE VOTING?
At the regular meeting of the Shelby County Board of Commissioners, on July 18 at 4 p.m., there will be an informational presentation about Ranked Choice Voting (also known as Instant Runoff Voting. Attendees will discover why that’s a misnomer.)
The City of Memphis requires the use of Ranked Choice Voting in single member City Council districts. Voters who live in Memphis will have a ballot that includes a special ballot face. This ballot will contain 3 columns, each containing candidates’ names. Voters choose their first, second and third choice for the position.
“It’s not as simple as it sounds, and the calculation process is complicated,” said Linda Phillips. “Not many people have experienced Ranked Choice Voting.”
The meeting is open to the public. However those who wish to take home an informational packet will need to call or email Sharon Logan at firstname.lastname@example.org, 24 hours in advance of the meeting to ensure that there are enough copies. Otherwise, they may have to come to the Operations Center at 980 Nixon Dr. at a later date to pick up the printed material.
Knight Road Elementary School Voting Event
Students at Knight Elementary had a voting experience in the spring, when SCEC officials took machines into the cafeteria and ran an election for them. Fourth and 5th graders voted on a ballot with four items, their favorite dessert, electronic device they’d like to bring to school if allowed, whether the school should have a safety patrol, and what vegetable to plant in the school garden.
“This is a fun way we can teach young kids about voting,” Linda Phillips said. “I believe if we get our children interested in the election process, they’ll be more likely to vote in the future.”
The principal, Femetres Gray, was excited about having SCEC there.
“Our kids and staff thoroughly enjoyed the process,” Gray said. “They were so engaged. It was educational and it gave them a chance to see what their parents do when they vote.”
Gray said the children are already wanting SCEC to come back in the fall to conduct the school’s class election. Informational packets containing a voter registration application for their parents was sent home with every child. If you would like to have SCEC come to conduct an election at your child’s school or non-profit club meeting, please
Don’t have a Tennessee ID? If you cannot afford one, you may obtain a free one FOR VOTING PURPOSES ONLY. They are available at certain offices of the Tennessee Department of Safety.
DEPUTY REGISTRAR CLASSES CONTINUE
The Deputy Registrar classes were so popular during the first quarter that we decided to hold more classes, which once again, were a big hit with members of the community. A few groups have come to the Operations Center to take the class. Some of those organizations include the League of Women Voters, the Germantown Democratic Club
and the Steering Committee of the Shelby County Republican Party.
Please remember that SCEC is a non-partisan body and is not concerned with any political party. The majority party of the board of commissioners always matches that of the Tennessee legislature, but administrators and staff conduct the day-to-day operation of SCEC without regard to party affiliation. Our only goal is to ensure that every election is
conducted in a fair and impartial manner, that all votes are accurately tallied, and that voters receive all educational material about voting that we can supply.
In order for a person to obtain an absentee ballot, he or she must have registered to vote in-person or voted in person at least once. To register in-person, the applicant must come to an SCEC office for identity verification purposes or register with a Deputy Registrar. Deputy Registrars are sworn in by SCEC officials, so the people they register to vote are considered to be registered in-person, and do not have to vote the first time in-person, as is the case with mail-in applications.
Being a Deputy Registrar is a big responsibility, because they take an oath promising not to advocate for any political party while registering people, and are required to submit applications promptly to SCEC for processing.
We’ve also gone to meetings of different civic clubs to hold classes and swear in deputy registrars at those remote locations. “We’d be happy to give more classes if there is a demand,” said Linda Phillips.
If you are interested in taking the class or if your church or civic group would be interested in hosting a class at its facility, SCEC staff will be glad to come and conduct a class. Being a Deputy Registrar allows individuals to register people to vote in-person at independent events.