Shelby Co. Election Commission receives unprecedented number of requests for absentee ballots

Absentee ballots: What you need to know

SHELBY COUNTY, Tenn. (WMC) - So far the Shelby County Election Commission has received more than 1,000% more requests for an absentee ballot for the August primary compared to past elections. In June, a Tennessee judge ruled absentee by mail ballots can be open to every amid the pandemic.

The COVID-19 pandemic has us rethinking how we do a lot of things.

“Previously in Tennessee, you’ve had to have one of 12 reasons to vote absentee,” said Shelby County Administrator of Elections Linda Phillips. “Now, if you have reason to fear the pandemic that is an acceptable reason to vote absentee.”

How to request and submit Shelby Co absentee ballot

The latest request for an absentee ballot has been updated to include that reason. You can get the form on the Shelby County Election Commission’s website or at its office on Nixon Road.

You must fill out all the information, physically sign it and mail or email it back to the election commission by July 30. Phillips says to do this sooner rather than later.

“Typically in an August election like this we get between 800 and 1,000 requests, we’re at about 12,000 now,” said Phillips.

To process all those ballots Phillips will increase her staff from four to 60 absentee ballot processors on Election Day. The first round of ballots was sent out Monday which is about five days later than expected.

“We had a delay with the printing of the ballots obviously with the volume we have,” said Philips.

The ballot must be to the election commission by Election Day. It will come with instructions and the affidavit envelope must be signed for the vote to count. Then it must be mailed to the office. You cannot email the ballot or turn it in in person.

Phillips said if you’re not sure you want to vote absentee or not to choose to vote in person. If you change your mind about an absentee ballot you can still vote in person, but only by provisional ballot.

“Our staff has masks and gloves, face shields,” said Phillips. “We have styluses so voters don’t touch the voting machines.

Early voting for the August primary begins Friday. If you want to vote absentee during the November general election, you must apply again. That process will open 90 days before the general election.

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