Shelby County election officials say provisional ballot usage unusually high to start early voting

Officials urge voters who requested absentee ballots not to try to vote in person

Shelby County election officials say provisional ballot usage unusually high to start early voting
The Shelby County Election Commission reports 26,839 voters cast ballots on the first day of early voting. This is the highest first day total since at least 2000. (Source: WMC)

MEMPHIS, Tenn. (WMC) - Shelby County election officials say provisional ballot usage is unusually high during the first few days of early voting and it’s partly to blame for those long lines voters faced the first few days.

Provisional ballots are intended for use when a voter’s registration can’t be verified in the poll book or if a voter shows up without a government-issued photo ID.

Election officials say some people who requested absentee ballots are now showing up at the polls to vote in person.

“We had many people who’ve requested a ballot come in and insist on voting in person,” said Linda Phillips, administrator of elections in Shelby County. “That’s not the intended use for those ballots and it really slows the line down.”

The election commission says it takes a voter and a poll worker up to 30 minutes to complete the necessary paperwork for a provisional ballot.

“You can see how much this backs up the line," said Phillips. “We know people are eager to vote, but if you have requested a paper ballot, please, please, give it at least until the 24th to reach you. If you get it right back in the mail, that will allow plenty of time for your ballot to get to us by Election Day.”

When voters check in at a polling place, registration information reflects if they requested an absentee ballot.

“At that point you will not be allowed to vote on a machine,” said Phillips.

At least 134,000 Shelby Countians have cast ballots in-person early, setting records. Early voting started Oct. 14 and runs until Oct. 29.

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