Candice Jones checks voting results on her phone during an election night watch party at the Memphis Biden-Harris headquarters on November 3, 2020. Photo by Brandon Dill for MLK50.

An earlier version of this story incorrectly stated the number of U.S. residents who had died due to COVID-19 at the time of publication. The correct number was just over 229,000 as of Nov. 4, according to the Johns Hopkins Coronavirus Resource Center.

Votes for the 2020 U.S. Presidential elections are still being counted in key swing states. 

But here in Memphis and across the country, one of the biggest stories got lost in the drama of voting: Some Memphians had to campaign, vote and celebrate (or mourn) in conditions made unsafe by the COVID-19 pandemic. 

In some cases, candidates and supporters had to limit campaigning and attendance at watch parties. Live-streamed videos struggled to capture the tenacity of Memphians engaged in democratic participation. 

Related: “Angry… for having a little bit of hope.” Progressive Memphians’ fears materialize in somber election night

MLK50 photographers were at rallies, polling locations and watch parties throughout the week. What we saw was a city trying to come together around the state of our nation — despite a pandemic that has forced us to separate, mask up and make accommodations to protect the most vulnerable. More than 229,000 people in the United States have died due to COVID-19. 

Here’s how Memphis pulled together — safely — on Election Day.

U.S. Senate candidate Marquita Bradshaw speaks at the Election Day eve rally at her campaign’s headquarters on Monday. The rally was held outside where supporters stood masked and socially distanced. Photo by Andrea Morales for MLK50
Even in not normal times, the Memphis barbecue is a constant. Supporters line up for barbecue outside of the Election Day eve rally at U.S. Senate candidate Marquita Bradshaw’s headquarters. Photo by Andrea Morales for MLK50
More than 200 absentee ballot workers raise their hands to be sworn in ahead of the start of absentee ballot count at FedExForum on Tuesday. The Shelby County Election Commission usually has about 15 workers for this task during a regular election. The sharp increase of absentee ballots this election required them to relocate from the usual command center. Photo by Andrea Morales for MLK50.
Joyce Conner, 65, waits in line to vote following the social distance markers on the ground at the Lewis Senior Center on Tuesday morning. Conner caught a ride from her home at Borda Towers to her polling site on a bus provided by the Memphis alumni chapter of the Alpha Phi Alpha fraternity. Photo by Andrea Morales for MLK50
Rondriquez White (left) and Emmanuel Jordan stand for a portrait outside of Christ Missionary Baptist Church on Tuesday afternoon during the Election Day Block Party, sponsored by #UPTheVote901. They were working at the party which provided food, music and drinks in a parking lot outside the polling location. Photo by Andrea Morales for MLK50
Volunteers at the Memphis For All “Party at the Polls” dance in masks along Chelsea Avenue during the last hour of voting on Tuesday. Photo by Andrea Morales for MLK50

Andrea Morales is the visuals director for MLK50: Justice Through Journalism. Email her at

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