Election administrator explains time-consuming process of counting absentee ballots

Updated: Sep. 29, 2020 at 6:08 PM CDT
Email This Link
Share on Pinterest
Share on LinkedIn

MEMPHIS, Tenn. (WMC) - The Shelby County Commission has delayed a vote on a new voting system. The Shelby County Administrator of Elections says if a new system is not approved by commissioners, purchasing more absentee ballot-counting machines, then election results during election night may be delayed.

Four high-speed absentee ballot-scanning machines used by the Shelby County Election Committee will be inside FedExForum on election night to count thousands of absentee ballots.

Shelby County Administrator of Elections Linda Phillips says it’s a time consuming process to count absentee ballots, and she wants the new election system approved by Shelby County Commissioners so more scanners can help speed up the process.

“The machines are very fast, but the checks and balances, the people part of it takes quite a bit longer,” Phillips said.

Phillips says absentee ballots are pulled in groups of 300. They’re first counted twice by 2 bi-partisan teams, which can take several hours, and then fed into one of 4 high-speed ballot-counting machines.

If there are problems, then it can take several more hours to get figured out.

“We stop, we remove that batch from the scanner and essentially we start over,” Phillips said. “Because if 300 ballots go in, then 300 ballots better come out or else we need to know why.”

So far, 22,000 absentee ballots have been requested according to the election commission, compared to 16,00 for the August election and more may still be requested.

Phillips says additional machines would allow for multiple teams working at once, speeding up a process which she fears may take a while depending on the final number of absentee ballots.

“There are some pretty good reasons why I wanted this equipment in place,” Phillips said.

On Monday, Shelby County Commissioners voted 7 to 6 to delay approving a brand new election system for two weeks. Several commissioners said they did not want to rush the decision.

“It’s more important to get it right than to get it quickly,” Steve Mulroy, attorney and election law expert said.

Mulroy is critical of the voting system proposed before commissioners.

“I think it’s fine for the County Commission to not have to rush into a 6 million dollar decision that will lock us in for the next 20 years on hackable, glitchy, overpriced voting machines,” Murray said.

Phillips says the new voting system is not able to be hacked since it is offline.

Phillips also says if commissioners approve the new election system in two weeks, the ballot-counting machines would be delivered before the November 3rd election but the new voting system would not be implemented until after the Presidential election.

Copyright 2020 WMC. All rights reserved.