More than 28,000 request absentee ballots as of a day before deadline

By , Daily Memphian Updated: October 27, 2020 8:38 AM CT | Published: October 26, 2020 6:53 PM CT
<strong>A voter grabs an "I voted" sticker after voting in the primary election at Arlington United Methodist Church Aug. 6, 2020</strong>.&nbsp;<strong>Mail-in ballot requests were made by 19,440 people in Shelby County ahead of that election.</strong> (Patrick Lantrip/Daily Memphian file)

A voter grabs an "I voted" sticker after voting in the primary election at Arlington United Methodist Church Aug. 6, 2020Mail-in ballot requests were made by 19,440 people in Shelby County ahead of that election. (Patrick Lantrip/Daily Memphian file)

With a day to go before the Tuesday, Oct. 27, deadline to request mail-in ballots, more than 28,000 Shelby Countians had made the ballot request for next week’s presidential election.

Of the 28,421 requests received, 21,169 completed ballots have been received by the Shelby County Election for counting on Election Day.

Ballot Basics: Voting Absentee and Lessons from August

The hand-marked ballots will be counted by counting boards of one Democrat and one Republican each after the signatures on the affidavits that come with the absentee ballots are verified by election officials.

The increase in absentee requests since the August election is not as high as election officials anticipated.

Mail-in ballot requests were made by 19,440 people in Shelby County ahead of the recent election on Aug. 6. And by the time the polls closed, 16,278 of the ballots were cast and counted.

More than 100 of the August absentee voters were among those who cast 233 provisional ballots because they hadn’t yet received absentee ballots or thought their completed mail-in ballots would not reach the election commission in time to be counted, said Shelby County Elections Administrator Linda Phillips.

Ballot Basics: Early Voting Oct. 14-29

Because the presidential election is the most popular cycle in terms of voter turnout in Shelby County politics, Phillips thought the requests for absentee ballots might be several times higher than for the August election cycle.

The November ballot every four years topped by the race for president is the only election cycle locally that regularly draws more than half of the county’s voters.

But there were problems in the August election with the U.S. Postal Service delivering the blank ballots to voters and then delivering the completed ballots to the Election Commission before the polls closed on election night. And they were plentiful enough that it may have caused some voters to back away from the option this time.

Organizers of some local get out the vote drives have specifically been urging voters to show up for in-person voting instead of voting absentee.

For out-of-town college students, act of voting is its own statement

Phillips has advised those requesting absentee ballots near and on the Tuesday deadline to use some kind of same-day delivery service to ensure the on-time delivery of their ballots.

By state law, the mail-in ballots cannot be hand-delivered to election officials. They must be mailed or delivered by FedEx or some similar service.

The total early vote, absentee vote and election day turnout for the August election in Shelby County was 126,268 ballots compared to 252,020 early voters and absentee ballots received through Saturday by preliminary numbers from the election commission.

Presidential campaigns have distinctly Memphis flavor

That’s almost twice as high with early voting running through Thursday and a deadline of 7 p.m. on election day for the absentee ballots to be in the hands of election officials as well as election day ballots still to come.

And the partial early voter turnout compares to a total all-in turnout of 341,731 in the same presidential election cycle four years ago.

The Shelby County early voter turnout through Saturday was 15.1% of a state turnout of 1.6 million, reported by the Tennessee Secretary of State’s office, also through Saturday.


absentee voting Shelby County Election Commission 2020 Elections Presidential Election 2020

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Bill Dries

Bill Dries

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


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