Don’t expect to know who won the U.S. presidential election on Election Day. Or even the next day.
Tennessee Secretary of State Tre Hargett warned Tuesday it could take some time before election results are finalized because of the high volume of absentee ballots that are anticipated.
“I think what you’re going to see across the country is that on election night we’re not going to know the results of who the next president is going to be,” said Hargett while phoning in to Tuesday’s weekly Warren County COVID-19 press conference. “We might have forecasts and predictions, but there are going to be some states out there where it’s going to drag out for days and maybe even a week counting these ballots that are coming in.”
In typical election years, absentee ballots account for about 2% of all ballots cast in Tennessee, Hargett said, but that number is expected to be higher this year.
“I think as we look at this election it could be up to 25% of people decide to vote absentee by mail. With that comes a lot more paper coming into the Election Commission and the infrastructure we have set up is built around in-person voting,” said Hargett. “With all those ballots coming in we need more people to help count those ballots. It’s a lot more work and those ballots can’t be opened until the polls open on Election Day.”
The state has purchased more scanners to assist in processing absentee ballots.
“We have been able with the CARES act grant to take money and buy some additional scanners needed for counties to process high numbers of votes, but in counties like Shelby, Davidson, Knox, and Hamilton there is going to be such a higher number of ballots they may not be able to get all those ballots counted on Election Day,” Hargett said. “I read a report earlier that said Shelby County isn’t going to buy any more scanners and the administrator said to be prepared for it to take three or four days to count all the ballots in Shelby County.”
Hargett explained provisional ballots and possible scenarios that could make provisional ballots necessary.
“If you got to your voting site and realized you didn’t have your photo ID, you’d be able to cast a provisional ballot. You have two days after the election to go back to your Election Commission and show your ID and then your ballot is counted,” Hargett said.
“Another way a provisional ballot may be necessary is if you show up and for some reason you’re not on the election rolls there and you believe you should be you’re able to cast a provisional ballot. If it is determined that you are supposed to be on the voter rolls that ballot is then counted.”
Hargett stressed that election officials are trying to make in-person voting as safe as possible by wearing face coverings and keeping polling places as clean as they can.
“They’re keeping those facilities clean for the safety of the voters as well as the safety of the poll workers.”
Hargett encouraged in-person voters to utilize the early voting period for safety as well as convenience.
“If you’re going to vote in person, I ask you to go vote early because that allows us to spread the voters out across as many days as we can,” said Hargett. “That allows us to practice social distancing and keep the poll places as clean as possible.”