Shelby County Election Commission working on COVID-19 precautions for upcoming elections

Updated: Jun. 17, 2020 at 5:30 PM CDT
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MEMPHIS, Tenn. (WMC) - Officials at the Shelby County Election Commission told Shelby County Commissioners Wednesday that they are working to hold safe elections this fall in August and November in spite of the pandemic.

Commissioners said they didn't want to see a repeat in Memphis of some of the scenes recently in Atlanta with voters waiting in lines for hours in the heat.

“I think we have a solid plan to protect our voters,” said Linda Phillips, administrator of elections at the Shelby County Election Commission.

Phillips told county commissioners Wednesday multiple safety protocols will be put in place for this fall's elections.

All poll workers will have PPE. Sneeze shields will be placed between voters and poll workers. Disposable styli will be used by voters, and polling places will be set up the day before to account for extra space for 6-foot social distancing.

The Shelby County Health Department is assisting the election commission.

“We have provided some advice,” said Alisa Haushalter, Shelby County Health Department director. “We are also available as we get closer to time to provide any additional technical assistance that may be needed.”

Phillips says the election commission is also gearing up to process a high volume of absentee ballots and is acquiring new scanning equipment to do so.

A Nashville judge ruled earlier this month the state must allow all registered voters to vote by mail if they want because of the pandemic.

State officials are appealing the decision.

"We will be using new equipment for processing absentee ballots which is going to be a pretty substantial part of this election," she said.

Phillips said the county is adding staffers to help keep in-person lines moving quickly should some fail to show up on Election Day.

"We are hiring additional poll workers who will be trained and deployed around Shelby County, so they could be sent to a polling place very quickly if they were needed," she said.

One of the issues in Georgia had to do with the rollout of new voting machines. Phillips told commissioners new machines will not be used in the August election. But she said she has not made a decision yet about November.

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