NAACP, Black clergy, voting rights group sue Tennessee county election commissioners

The lawsuit is calling for more polling places to open for the first three days of early voting

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The Shelby County Election Commission is being hit with a lawsuit claiming the commission is disenfranchising voters ahead of the primaries. 

The sixteen-page lawsuit filed Thursday by the NAACP Memphis Branch, #UpTheVote901, and the Black Clergy Collaborative of Memphis notes that four of the six polling sites “provide little opportunity for minority voters to exercise their early voting rights.”

The lawsuit also alleges the Election Commission is in violation of the Tennessee Open Meetings Act, the Tennessee Constitution, and the Voting Rights Act of 1965, Commerical Appeal reports.

(Photo: Getty Image)

The three Memphis groups took legal action following the decision to open only one polling place in downtown Memphis for the first two days of early voting, which begins April 13. Five more polling sites will open on the fourth day at the Agricenter, Arlington Safe Room, Baker Community Center, Dave Wells Community Center, and Glenview Community Center.

Locals are said to be outraged that no other sites will be open until April 18, weeks before the primaries kick off in May. According to Earle Fisher, founder of Up The Vote 901, the current schedule for the polling sites is unfair to Black voters.

“There’s no site in Whitehaven during that time,” said Fisher to ABC 24. “There’s no site in Hickory Hill. There’s no precinct open in Westwood. You’re talking about some of the places where people are most prone to participate in early voting not even being open.”

The lawsuit is calling for more polling places to open for the first three days of early voting, and that the election commission “follow the rules the Election Commission set in place previously in February,” the suit states, according to the report. 

“I think more can be done,” said NAACP President Van Turner. “Things can be done in a better way. It should not have taken this lawsuit to force this issue.”

The suit also states that Election Commission’s decision “will harm the African-American citizens of Shelby County by significantly impairing their voting rights and opportunities as compared to white voters in Shelby County, Tennessee due to the locations of the four sites selected for early voting by the Shelby County Election Commission.”

Per the lawsuit, the clergy members will open their churches to allow early voting.

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