Election 2020

Absentee ballot count stands at about 11,000, Phillips says

By , Daily Memphian Updated: July 22, 2020 12:40 PM CT | Published: July 22, 2020 12:31 PM CT

The expected high number of absentee ballots being requested by Shelby County voters for the August elections probably won’t mean a long election night count.

But the November election could be another matter with a vote count that may go into the next day if there remains an unusually high number of absentee ballots, Shelby County Elections administrator Linda Phillips said.

Phillips took questions from Shelby County Commissioners in Wednesday, July 22 committee sessions.

<strong>Linda Phillips</strong>

Linda Phillips

She said 11,000 absentee ballots have been sent by mail as of Tuesday to voters out of about 15,000 absentee ballots requests so far for the Aug. 6 elections. In-person early voting is underway in advance of election day.

“I don’t anticipate a delay in the results in August,” Phillips said. “But I think everyone needs to understand we will not be able to count all of the votes in November on election night.”

Phillips estimated the count would probably continue into the day after the election, anticipating a similar high demand for absentee ballots by Shelby County voters.

Ballot Basics: Absentee voting for beginners

The normal number of absentee ballots for an election in Shelby County is about 1,000 – higher for the presidential general election.

Phillips also said she is hearing from voters who get their absentee ballots and expect to see the presidential general election that will top the Nov. 3 ballot.

“This election, there is a lot of confusion,” she said. “The ballot they get is not the ballot they expect.”

As a result, Phillips expects there may be some absentee ballots issued for this election that might not be returned.

The absentee surge is not showing up in early voting turnout so far.

The first absentee ballots were mailed out last week.

Kelsey backs state opposition to expanding absentee balloting in pandemic

Through Monday, the third day of the early voting period, absentee ballots completed, mailed to the Election Commission and received by the Election Commission totaled 73.

That’s out of a voter turnout so far of 12,849 – absentee and those voting in person at the 26 early voting sites across Shelby County.

That compares to 3,176 through the third day of early voting four years ago in the same election cycle. But only one early voting site was open for the first two days of the voting period in 2016.

The three-day total was 46,791 in the November 2016 presidential general election with 27 early voting sites open for the entire 14-day period.

Chancellor denies push for state to let first-timers vote by mail

The commission will vote Monday, July 27, on up to $325,000 in federal CARES Act funding for the Election Commission, to be used for training of additional workers, more digital scanners for the paper ballots that are used in absentee voting and to do more outreach on how to fill out the paper ballot.

The deadline to apply for the absentee ballots is July 30. But Phillips urged voters to apply before then because of questions about the amount of time it could take a ballot put in the mail to reach the Election Commission.

The ballots must be received by the Election Commission before the time the polls close on the Aug. 6 election day. A postmark on that date is not the standard for counting the ballot.

“The postmark date doesn’t matter,” Phillips said. “The received date is what is critical.”

Former Shelby County Commissioner Steve Mulroy is a critic of how the Election Commission has handled the absentee applications and contends Phillips and her staff should have begun processing them sooner.

“If you hear reports of people not getting their ballots in time or get their ballots mailed in time, it won’t be because of the pandemic,” he said. “And it won’t be because of some crazy court ruling in Nashville. It will be because of the deliberate decision by Shelby County to let applications pile up.”

It wasn’t until last week that Nashville Chancellor Ellen Hobbs Lyle denied an effort to allow first-time voters to vote by mail. In June, she ordered the state to permit absentee ballot requests for concerns about the COVID-19 pandemic in the same court case.

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2020 Election absentee voting early voting Shelby County Commission Linda Phillips
Bill Dries

Bill Dries

Bill Dries covers city government and politics. He is a native Memphian and has been a reporter for more than 40 years.


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