Shelby Co. Election Commission gets new machines, extra staff to handle absentee ballots

New machines, extra staff to handle absentee ballots

MEMPHIS, Tenn. (WMC) - Voters across Tennessee and in Shelby County have requested a record number of absentee ballots, most not wanting to show up in person to vote because of the pandemic.

The Shelby County Election Commission says it’s ready to go the counting but the Tennessee secretary of state has a warning.

”The technology we have purchased is a lot easier to use than the old equipment,” said Linda Phillips, Shelby County Administrator of Elections. “Our old equipment was very tricky about how ballots had to be flattened.”

Four new scanners to count absentee ballots will make it go faster according to Phillips. 

High tech there, but still low tech, pretty much by hand to literally flatten the ballot so it can be scanned.

Phillips says more than 19,000 absentee ballots were sent out. More than 13,000 received by the election commission so far, an enormous increase over past elections.

The coronavirus is the reason. A lot of people just didn’t want to chance it by showing up in person.

Phillips says 60 workers will go through some pretty tedious tasks, like checking signatures and making sure the ballot has been filled out properly.

”Our staff doesn’t actually count them,” she said. “A counting board counts them. We have highly trained staff available to make sure there are no glitches.”

And Phillips expects things to go pretty fast Thursday, on Election Day.

”We’re relying on the U.S. Postal Service to get those ballots back to us,” said Tre Hargett, Tennesee Secretary of State. “The ballot should have been in the mail several days ago.”

Hargett says counties across the state have sent out record numbers of absentee ballots and he has a warning.

”Any ballot we get the day after the election, doesn’t matter when it was postmarked ballots have to be in by the close of polls on election night,” he said.

If you haven’t mailed in your absentee ballot you can cast a provisional ballot. But you have to show up in person.

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