(a) For every primary, general, special, or municipal election, there shall be appointed one inspector and at least three clerks, named and notified as are other election officials under the general laws of the state, who shall meet, at the regular time of closing of the election on that day, in the courthouse, or municipal building for municipal elections, as designated by the absentee election manager for the purpose of counting and returning the ballots cast by absentee voters. The returns from the absentee precinct shall be made as required by law for all other boxes. It shall be unlawful for any election official or other person to publish or make known to anyone the results of the count of absentee votes before the polls close.
(b) Any person or organization authorized to appoint poll watchers under Sections 17-8-7 and 17-13-11 may have a single watcher present at the counting of absentee ballots, with the rights as are conferred by the sections and by any other provisions of state law.
(c) This section shall not apply to municipal elections in cities and towns of less than 10,000 inhabitants which are held at a time different from a primary or general election. These cities or towns may establish a procedure for the appointment of absentee election officials pursuant to subsection (c) of Section 11-46-27 by permanent ordinance adopted six months prior to the municipal election.