MEMPHIS, Tenn. (WMC) - More now than ever, Decision 2020 will not only be decided at the precinct but also at the mailbox.
Shelby County election officials said Tuesday they have mailed more than 22,000 absentee ballots, and voters still have another two weeks to request to vote by mail.
By comparison, four years ago only about 8,000 absentee ballots were requested in Shelby County for the 2016 presidential election.
Tennessee law requires absentee ballots be returned by mail and received by the close of business on Election Day.
Once a voter sends back their ballot, election workers can’t count them until Election Day.
“Tennessee election law doesn’t allow us to even touch these ballots until 7 p.m.,” said Linda Phillips, administrator of elections in Shelby County.
Phillips and Election Commissioner Brent Taylor have been very vocal about the county needing more scanners to process the onslaught of new absentee ballots.
Two weeks ago they told county commissioners it could be the Saturday after Election Day before workers could finish tallying the votes.
When we spoke with Phillips Monday, she would not commit to a timeframe.
“Part of the problem is you look at the stated rate of speed for manufacturers (of ballot counters) and that’s an interesting number, but it doesn’t account for the human element,” said Phillips.
Each ballot must be physically opened, inspected by a bipartisan team of poll workers and entered into one of four scanners to be counted.
Phillips says she needs two more scanners to effectively process the ballots.
Election advocate and attorney Steve Mulroy says she actually needs something else.
“Which is precisely why what they need is more staff,” said Mulroy. “They don’t need more scanners. They need more staff.”
Currently, election officials are planning to have 200 people at FedExForum processing up to 40,000 absentee ballots.
During the August election, there were 76 people who processed more than 16,000 absentee ballots.