Democrats in Tennessee’s largest county are accusing election officials of trying to suppress black votes in early voting preceding the August elections. Shelby County Democratic Party Chairman Corey Strong on Wednesday criticized the decision by the county Election Commission to make Agricenter International the only open polling location on the first five days of the early voting process, which starts July 13. Strong said the location in suburban east Memphis is too far away for people who live in urban black neighborhoods who rely on public transportation to get to voting locations. He argued the location, plus three new suburban sites being opened later as early voting spots, will make it easier for Republicans to vote compared with Democrats.
The majority party of the five-member election commission is determined by the majority party of the Tennessee General Assembly, according to the commission’s website. Republicans currently comprise the majority of the General Assembly.
The city of Memphis is majority black, but the Shelby County early voting locations questioned by Democrats are predominantly white, census data shows. Whites outnumber blacks by more than 20-to-1 in the Agricenter’s zip code, according to data from the U.S. Census’ American Community Survey.
“This is a clear attempt at voter suppression,” Strong said, adding that the selection of the Agricenter “in no way represents an equitable place.”