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Memphis News & Weather | Memphis, TN | WATN - localmemphis.com

"A good dress rehearsal for November" | Shelby County election leaders prepare for surge of mail-in primary ballots

Nearly 20 times as many ballot applications were mailed out compared to a typical primary.

MEMPHIS, Tenn. — At Shelby County election headquarters Wednesday, the tables are set and socially distanced for 60 people to sort through and review as many as 19,000 absentee and mail-in ballot Thursday.

"We have pretty detailed plan to get that done," Shelby County Election Administrator Linda Phillips said.

Phillips said as of Tuesday, about 4,000 mail-in ballot applications hadn't been mailed back, but are eligible to be counted if they are mailed in and arrive by the time the polls close at 7:00 p.m.Thursday.

"I feel we will definitely have results tomorrow night but if we have 160,000 paper ballots in November, it will probably take multiple days to process them all," Phillips said

As the absentee ballots are sorted and verified throughout Thursday, they'll go through one of four new, state-of-the-art scanners.

"Oh, it's like night and day," Phillips said. "Not only do they work consistently, which had been a real problem with the old scanners, but we should have no difficulty with so many thousand on a particular machine in a day."

As for in-person voting at your precinct Thursday, Phillips said the same precautions will be in place for early voting.

"They have masks, face shields, gloves, hand sanitizer, we are cleaning all surfaces, flexiglass shields, voters are getting their own pens, and voters have to pluck their own stickers off the rolls," Phillips said.

The Shelby County election administrator said if mail-in and absentee ballots are about 20 times the normal amount in November, the needed staff will have to move to the Agricenter or FedExForum.

The Election Commission is considered an essential service, so we are able to issue and accept petitions at both locations. However, we urge citizens who do not need to file petitions to stay home and use our online services at GoVoteTN.com.