Controversial absentee ballot request language to be removed in time for presidential election

"Felony" Warning to be removed from Shelby Co. Absentee Ballot Application

MEMPHIS, Tenn. (WMC) - This year the absentee ballot request form might be as popular as ever.

With fears surrounding COVID-19, people over the age of 60 and other qualifying residents might choose to mail in their ballot rather than show up in person.

However, Shelby County Administrator Linda Phillips has been getting some negative feedback about the wording of the Shelby County absentee ballot request form.

"That form has been on our website and we've been using it since 2018," said Phillips.

The form looks pretty standard except for a line in red towards the bottom that reads:

"I understand that if I apply to vote absentee by mail and I am not entitled to do so, I have committed a felony."

During Tuesday’s Shelby County Election Commission meeting, commissioner Bennie Smith objected to the line.

Smith thought it would deter people from signing the form and requesting a ballot.

Smith suggested that the county use the state of Tennessee’s Absentee ballot form that didn’t include the language.

The line is also not found on other absentee ballot request forms in Knox, Hamilton or Davidson counties. Smith didn’t understand why Shelby county added that line.

"You know we've been using it for two years and this is the first time anyone has ever complained, so I have no objection to changing it, but we're in the middle of an election so we're kind of busy," said Phillips.

The form will stay the same for the August election cycle, but the election commission voted to remove that line in time for the November election.

Meanwhile, election workers are working to get ready for elections in the era of COVID-19.

Phillips says she has ordered masks, 175,000 disposable stylus pens and 155 gallons of sanitizer.

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