Shelby County Election Commission expects surge of absentee, early votes in November

Shelby County Election Commission expects surge of absentee, early votes in November

MEMPHIS, Tenn. (WMC) - Officials at the Shelby County Election Commission said Thursday night was a good test run for November, as we think of voting in the era of COVID-19.

But Administrator of Elections Linda Phillips said she knows the volume of voters in November will be much greater.

“We are going to tweak just a few things, but overall our plan was good,” she said. “The process went really well. We love our new scanners.”

Four new, high-speed scanners helped officials at the Shelby County Election Commission tabulate thousands of absentee votes Thursday night, finishing the vote processing ahead of Nashville’s Davidson County.

In a typical August primary, Phillips said they would usually see 1,000 absentee ballots.

In Thursday’s race county-wide, 16,941 people voted absentee, 40,126 people came to the polls on Election Day, and 68,883 people cast ballots during the early voting period.

Phillips expects the emphasis on early voting to carry forward into November.

“A lot of the people that voted early were typically Election Day voters. So, I think a lot of voters decided that early voting was going to be safer for them, and it was. We didn’t really have any lines anywhere except at one site,” she said.

A ruling by the Tennessee Supreme Court this week removed fear of COVID-19 as a reason for requesting an absentee ballot in November. However, Phillips said those with medical conditions that make them vulnerable, as well as those in the same household and their caretakers can ask to vote absentee.

Age is also a valid reason.

“Any voter over age 60 can ask for one,” she said. “And that was the bulk of our requests for this cycle.”

The election commission is planning for 100,000 to 160,000 absentee ballots this fall, and they will need 600 people working in bipartisan teams to count them. Those individuals in Shelby County are recruited by the political parties themselves, not the election commission.

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