One bottom-line message emerged from Monday's public meeting of the Shelby County Commission: The commission does not intend to function as a rubber stamp — not for the Election Commission and not for County Mayor Lee Harris.
In a much-anticipated vote on a request for a $5,815,405 purchase of voting machinery from the ES&S Company, the momentum of a tense, drama-filled debate tilted against the buy when county commission Chairman Eddie Jones pointedly reminded Election Commissioner Brent Taylor, who was making the pitch, that the county commission had put itself on record, not for ballot-marking machines of the sort marketed by ES&S but for hand-marked voting devices.
Jones was immediately backed up by Commissioner Tami Sawyer, and the commission's vote, in short order, was 6 ayes, 5 nays, and 2 abstentions — leaving the measure one vote short of the necessary seven. During the debate, Commissioner Willie Brooks had reminded Taylor of his intriguing statement he had made to the Flyer last March: "The process is backwards," Taylor said then. "The Election Commission should not have initiated the RFP and passed the decision about funding on to the county commission. What we [the Election Commission members] should have done is come to some broad general decision about the kind of machines we wanted and then let the county commission issue an RFP [request for proposal], make the choice, and then vote on the funding."
Soon came another demonstration point, led by Edmund Ford, who wanted to establish commission authority over what he deemed a mayoral overreach: a $1 million expenditure to two local PR agencies to produce an ad promoting face masks as a prophylactic against COVID-19. The ad was commissioned by Harris in August under statutory emergency powers assumed to be his under the federal Cares Act. But Ford insisted that the statute did not give the county mayor authority without commission consent to contract for a sum larger than $50,000. Commissioner Van Turner, who had wanted to withdraw the resolution, said unhappily after a vote of 7 nays and 3 abstentions against it, that the matter had been a "political show," a case of "wanting to stick it to the mayor."
Early voting for the November 3rd election begins October 14th and runs through October 29th at the following 26 locations; 9 a.m. to 8 p.m., Monday through Friday; 8 a.m. to 4 p.m., Saturday.
• Abundant Grace Fellowship Church, 1574 E. Shelby Dr., Memphis, 38116
• Agricenter International, 7777 Walnut Grove Rd., Memphis, 38120
• Mississippi Blvd. Church Family Life Center, 70 N. Bellevue Blvd., Memphis, 38104
• New Bethel Missionary Baptist Church, 7786 Poplar Pike, Germantown, 38138
• Arlington Safe Room, 11842 Otto Ln., Arlington, 38002
• Anointed Temple of Praise, 3939 Riverdale Rd., Memphis, 38115
• Baker Community Center, 7942 Church Rd., Millington, 38053
• Berclair Church of Christ, 4536 Summer Ave., Memphis, 38122
• Briarwood Church, 1900 N. Germantown Pkwy., Memphis, 38016
• Collierville Church of Christ, 575 Shelton Dr., Collierville, 38017
• Compassion Church, 3505 S. Houston Levee Rd., Germantown, 38139
• Dave Wells Community Center, 915 Chelsea Ave., Memphis, 38107
• Glenview Community Center, 1141 S. Barksdale St., Memphis, 38114
• Greater Lewis Street Baptist Church, SE Corner of Poplar and E. Parkway N., Memphis, 38104
• Greater Middle Baptist Church, 4982 Knight Arnold Rd., Memphis, 38118
• Harmony Church, 6740 St. Elmo Rd., Bartlett, 38135
• Mt. Pisgah Missionary Baptist Church, 1234 Pisgah Rd., Cordova, 38016
• Mt. Zion Baptist Church, 60 S. Parkway E., Memphis, 38106
• Raleigh United Methodist Church, 3295 Powers Rd., Memphis, 38128
• Riverside Missionary Baptist Church, 3560 S. Third St., Memphis, 38109
• Shelby County Election Commission, James Meredith Bldg., 157 Poplar Ave., Memphis, 38103
• Second Baptist Church, 4680 Walnut Grove Blvd., Memphis, 38117
• Solomon Temple MB Church, 1460 Winchester Rd., Memphis, 38116
• The Pursuit of God Church (Bellevue Frayser,) 3759 N. Watkins, Memphis, 38127
• White Station Church of Christ, 1106 Colonial Road, Memphis, 38117
• The Refuge Church, 9817 Huff N Puff Rd., Lakeland, 38002