Absentee voting, vote-by-mail effort part of push to make local election easier during COVID

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MEMPHIS, Tenn. — COVID-19 has changed how we do pretty much everything, but local leaders say one thing it can’t change is people exercising their right to vote. Now there’s a push to make it easier for you to vote during this pandemic. 

Right now state law automatically allows people over 60 to vote absentee by mail. Everyone else needs to request that option and include a reason for doing so.

Some voters say that’s not good enough during these uncertain times.

Elections administrator Linda Phillips said she expects an increase in absentee ballots this year.

“We have elections coming up on August 6th and then again in November, and I think people have a lot of questions about that,” Phillips said.

Phillips says poll workers will have protective equipment and other safety measures in place.

“We are taking enormous care with our polling places. We’ll have to be moving some of them to allow for appropriate social distancing but you’ll get a letter in the mail if that applies to you,” she said.

Phillips say she’s hopeful the new equipment approved by commissioners last week will make things easier.

When working perfectly the current equipment can scan 22,000 absentee ballots a day. But the new equipment can do about 150,000 ballots, which would exceed the number of people who typically vote in an August election, she said.

She hopes to have that new equipment in place by August.

Some are fighting for everyone to have the option to vote through by absentee ballots.

A lawsuit filed against the state is pushing to expand mail voting to all Tennesseans due to COVID-19. Pastor Earle Fisher is one of the plaintiffs challenging the state on this.

“People should not have to choose between their health and the health of their loved ones or their fundamental right to vote,” Fisher said.

For information on requesting an absentee ballot, go to shelbyvote.com.

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