Shelby County Election Commission prepares to handle record number of absentee ballots on Election Day

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SHELBY COUNTY, Tenn. — The Shelby County Election Commission is gearing up for Thursday’s big election and handling a record number of absentee ballots.

Everything is ready at the Shelby County Election Commission office on Nixon downtown for counting ballots on election night.

Election Administrator Linda Phillips said the big job is handling almost 20,000 absentee ballots requested by voters.

As of Tuesday night, almost 16,000 had been mailed back to the commission.

“We have 60 people counting absentee,” Phillips said. “Typically, we would have eight, so we have a lot more people counting absentees.”

She said there are a lot of steps after the last person at the polls casts their ballot. Counting teams must check the ballot boxes to make sure numbers line up.

“If there are 300 ballots in the box, there will be 300 ballots at the end of the process that gets scanned, or there will be a detailed explanation of why not,” Phillips said.

For the first time, four new $50,000 scanners will allow the absentee ballots to be counted faster than ever.

“These are new state-of-the-art scanners,” Phillips said. “They can easily scan 20,000 ballots in a day, so we are good.”

The election commission is still getting in mailed absentee ballots, but time is running out.

One thing you don’t want to do is just bring your ballot to the election commission and drop it off in their mailbox. It won’t be counted. It has to be mailed in.

But if your absentee ballot hasn’t been received by election day, you can still vote provisional.

“We check to make sure we didn’t receive their absentee ballot,” Phillips said. “If we didn’t receive their absentee ballot, then we can count their provisional ballot. But you only get to vote once.”

Phillips said on election day in Tennessee, the postal service is doing a special run just for last-minute ballots.

She doesn’t expect any delays in returns on election night unless there are long lines as the polls close, and they have to wait until the last person casts their ballot.

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