* Update: Late in the day August 5, the Tennessee Supreme Court overturned a lower court's ruling that would have allowed absentee voting for all residents afraid of contracting or spreading COVID-19 during the general election.
Shelby County election officials won't be waiting until polls close at 7 p.m. tonight to start counting ballots. A record number of absentee ballots -- more than 19,000 -- were sent out this year after a judge ruled the pandemic was a valid reason to request one. In a typical election like this, officials say they receive only about 1,000 requests.
All those ballots get tallied on election day, just like the rest.
While election administrator Linda Phillips doesn’t anticipate delays in reporting tonight's results for the primary, November's high-turnout presidential election could be a different matter, especially if far more people choose the postal option.
“If we get much more than 100,000 [absentee ballots] for November then the odds are very good that we will not be able to finish on election day,” she says.
About 80 percent of absentee ballots had been returned by Wednesday morning. Those not received by the close of polls aren’t counted. Ballots must be mailed in; they cannot be dropped off.
The state of Tennessee is still in a court fight to limit absentee voting in November.
Phillips says she wants people to vote however they feel most comfortable, but she worries that mail-in votes also come with a risk.
“It’s inevitable that some of them are going to be misdelivered or going to arrive too late,” she says. “So my advice is if you absolutely, positively want to make sure your vote counts, mask up and vote in person.”
Polling places have been outfitted with extensive COVID-19 safety measures.
The election will determine the new Shelby County Court Clerk, along with primary races for an open U.S. Senate seat and the eighth and ninth Tennessee Congressional districts.
Visit GoVoteTN.com to find your precinct.