MEMPHIS, Tenn. (WMC) - As of Wednesday, absentee ballots for November’s election are now in the mail to Shelby County voters that have requested them.
Officials at the Shelby County Election Commission said they’re hopeful they will be caught up with the 20,000 requests they have received by this weekend, as two shifts of employees are currently stuffing and processing ballots.
The commission is expecting 40,000 to 50,000 requests for absentee ballots in Shelby County and planning for 100,000 requests. FedExForum will be used on Election Day as a counting site.
Wednesday, the first round of roughly 5,000 absentee ballots made it from the O.C. Pleasant Operations Center on Nixon Drive to the county post office. The ballots are checked to ensure the voter name is correct multiple times before they make it out the door.
“The legal deadline is October 27. But the realistic deadline is October 20. So get your requests in as soon as possible,” said Linda Phillips, Administrator of Elections.
Phillips said that extra time accounts for mail processing delays and also provides a window to correct if a voter makes a mistake.
If there’s an error on the ballot and the election commission has received it seven days prior to Election Day, the election commission will call the voter. They can send out another ballot for the voter to correct the error.
The commission cannot correct voter mistakes in absentee ballots. The voter must do it themselves, Phillips said.
“We will reach out to the voter and let them know what the problem was and send them another set,” she said. “Nobody can change anything on the ballot but the voter.”
Phillips said households with multiple absentee voters must ensure they sign the envelope personalized for them.
Peg Watkins with the Memphis-Shelby County League of Women voters says that is a common error.
“The main problem we’ve heard, especially with couples, is putting the ballot in the wrong envelope and mailing it back,” Watkins said. “It is imperative that you follow step by step directions.”
Saturday morning the Memphis-Shelby County League of Women voters along with the Memphis Area Women’s Council and other women’s organizations will kick off a local campaign called Women Vote Early.
The non-partisan effort aims to get women to cast ballots before Nov. 3.
“I think women are becoming more and more engaged in the political process,” said Watkins. “We encourage everyone to vote early if you can. There are so many polling sites available for early voting, and with the expanded time frame there shouldn’t be a problem at all.”
Early voting starts October 14 and ends October 29.
Tennessee law does not allow the election commission to expand the number of days of early voting, but they have expanded the hours each day to account for more social distancing. Almost all of the 26 sites are open from 9 a.m. to 8 p.m.
If you request an absentee ballot and then show up at a polling place, you will have to vote provisionally which can be very time consuming.
You can check on the status of an absentee ballot by clicking here.