MEMPHIS, Tenn. — Election day is less than 30 days away.
The Shelby County Election Commission will start mailing out thousands of absentee ballots for the 2020 presidential election this week.
The election commission said human error is one of the main reasons why an absentee ballot isn’t counted for an election.
That’s why community group Up The Vote 901 is working to make sure everyone’s vote is counted this November.
“We don’t have a voter registration problem in Memphis, we have a voter turnout problem. We have a voter education problem. We have a voter engagement problem,” said Rev. Earle Fisher, Up The Vote 901 founder.
Fisher filed a lawsuit against the state to expand absentee ballot voting during the pandemic earlier this year.
As a result, more than 14,000 people voted by mail for the August 6 election but Shelby County Election Commission data shows more 540 ballots were rejected too.
Election staff said those ballots weren’t counted because voters didn’t sign it, the ballot wasn’t delivered on time or the ballot envelope was empty, so it couldn’t be counted.
Election administrator Linda Philips said about 100 ballots were unreadable in the scanner but they were counted.
“We had a lot of cases where they would vote for a candidate and then on the line that said write in, they would again right in the candidate’s name so those ballots are not machine readable and have to be remade but obviously the voter’s intent was very clear,” said Phillips.
This year, the election commission released a video showing voters how to request an absentee ballot and outlining who is eligible for them.
But Fisher believes that’s not enough especially when about 20,000 voters have already requested absentee ballots for the November election
That’s why he said Up The Vote 901 has been calling voters in underserved communities with low turnout.
“We have targeted people in those zip codes making sure that as far Up The Vote 901 is concerned that their voices matter, that their perspectives on the issues matter and that access to the ballot box matters,” said Fisher.
Phillips said every absentee ballot packet includes an information sheet with it with directions on how to complete it.
Those ballots must be mailed in, not hand-delivered, to the election office by 7 p.m. on Election Day.
Additionally, absentee ballots will be mailed out by precinct. Phillips said that’s the fastest and most efficient way to get the ballots out.
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