Shelby County election officials happy with Election Day despite challenges

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MEMPHIS, Tenn. — There was no blueprint or predictors for how election night would go in Shelby County, but despite all the challenges, officials are largely happy with how today went.

The Shelby County Election Commission ran differently than it ever has.

In years past, they’ve had less than 10 vote counters physically going through ballots. Thursday, they had dozens of people physically ripping into envelopes, verifying signatures and counting the votes.

It was also a historic day for early absentee voting. The election commission is reporting nearly 17,000 votes that came via absentee or the mail.

That is close to 20 times the normal amount of votes in that fashion, only adding to the strange but manageable situation that this office had to deal with.

Despite the large absentee totals, voter turnout was down. While Shelby County has more than 571,000 registered voters, the election commission is projecting around 105,000 votes, for a turnout of around 18%.

It was not a perfect night, but it was a strong test run ahead of November.

“It’s actually been really excellent,” said Shelby County Elections Administrator Linda Phillips. “We had a solid plan, and we’ve executed it brilliantly. I’ve got a little few tweaks like, remember to put band-aids on our shopping list for all the paper cuts!”

They likely won’t have as many people voting absentee during the November election. Wednesday, the Tennessee Supreme Court struck down the use of absentee ballots for those who fear contracting the coronavirus.

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