Tennessee election officials making adjustments amid COVID-19 spread

Tennessee election officials making adjustments amid COVID-19 spread

MEMPHIS, Tenn. (WMC) - With coronavirus likely to be circulating around the country for months to come, there are already concerns if it will be safe for people to vote later this summer and heading into the 2020 election.

Tennesseeans will be heading back to the polls on August 6 for county elections, plus primary state and federal elections.

Early voting will start sometime in mid-July.

The long lines in Wisconsin Tuesday with voters waiting to cast their ballots in the middle of a pandemic had some people outraged.

The state’s governor tried to postpone the election until July, but the Supreme Court blocked those efforts.

WMC Action News 5 asked Shelby County Election Administrator Linda Phillips what were the chances of postponing the Tennessee election if there was another wave of COVID-19 in August.

“I would be extremely surprised if the election date could change," said Phillips.

Phillips says she’s moving forward with plans for the August election.

She’s a part of a statewide group that is studying ways for Tennesseeans to safely cast ballots.

"You know, we’re looking at different polling locations right now and trying to decide which ones are too small to do appropriate social-distancing,” said Phillips.

Certain precincts may be replaced or consolidated with a nearby site.

Phillips says she’s also looking at disposable stylus pens.

Still, more voters may choose to vote from home if COVID-19 is still a threat by late summer.

In Tennessee, anyone over the age of 60 can cast an absentee ballot. Phillips says that presents another issue.

The current citing machines can only process 22,000 absentee ballots in one day.

Phillips says there are currently 130,000 registered voters in Shelby County over the age of 60.

″So even if 60 percent of them chose to get an absentee ballot and voted, it would be several days before we had the results,” said Phillips.

Currently, absentee ballots can not be counted until after the polls close.

Phillips says she is working with the legislature to allow processing absentee ballots earlier if needed.

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