Want to vote by mail in Missouri? The deadline to apply is today

A Q&A with Missouri election officials to help ensure your vote counts

By: - October 21, 2020 12:43 pm

So far, at least 19 states have passed 34 laws restricting voting access, according to the Brennan Center for Justice at the New York University School of Law (photo by Mario Tama/Getty Images).

Election Day is only 13 days away.

But if Missourians want to vote from home, they have until 5 p.m. today (Oct. 21) to request an absentee or mail-in ballot. 

To help answer voters’ questions, The Missouri Independent held a Q&A on Twitter with three local election officials: Greene County Clerk Shane Schoeller, Boone County Clerk Brianna Lennon and Eric Fey, Democratic director of elections for the St. Louis County Election Board.

The three officials rotated answering questions on Twitter. Here are the highlights.

(NOTE: Voters can request absentee and mail-in ballots from their local election authority in person, by mail, by fax or by e-mail. Click here to find where to send your request.)

What are some common mistakes voters should avoid when filling out the absentee request form?

Schoeller said voters should check only one reason and make sure they have the correct election date. And of course make sure to sign the request, without using a digital font, he said. 

In an interview with the Springfield News-Leader, Schoeller said that when voters get their actual ballots in the mail, there is an affidavit on the back of the envelope. Make sure not to miss the “VOTER SIGN HERE” instruction with a signature line next to it. 

All mail-in ballots must be notarized. And for absentee ballots, they must be notarized unless voters are not choosing reasons #2 or #7, which essentially say that either the voter is caring for someone at high risk for contracting COVID-19 or the voter is at high risk themselves.

How much of an administrative lift has it been to handle mail-in ballots? Has it put significant strain on your office?

Lennon said Boone County started preparing in June for the expected increases in mailed absentee and mail-in ballots. 

“But it definitely was a big administrative change to make it work,” she said. “We were fortunate that our ballot printer had been working with other clerks on this issue, so we’ve been able to streamline our mailing process.” 

Boone County had to add more staff to handle the increases in applications and larger numbers of returned ballots, she said. 

“August was a good practice run, but you can see on the chart that our numbers (both mail and in-person) are way up,” Lennon said.

With concerns over U.S. Postal Service (USPS) delays, what options do voters have if they don’t think their mail or absentee ballot will arrive in time through the mail? What advice are you giving for mail in ballots? 

Fey said St. Louis County hasn’t seen many delays through the postal service. The USPS delivery standard is three to seven days, so voters should not procrastinate, he said. Voters with absentee ballots can turn them in in-person. 

“Express mail is also an option for voters who find themselves with a ballot just days before the election,” Fey said. “And I always like to emphasize that voters may always come to our office or go to a polling place on election day, surrender their absentee/mail-in ballot, and vote a new ballot.”

Can you vote in-person ahead of Nov. 3?

Voters can continue to vote absentee in person until 5 p.m. the day before Election Day at their local election office, Schoeller said.

In Greene County, that location is the Elections Center at 1126 N Boonville from 7:30 a.m. to 5:30 p.m. Monday through Friday. Also on Saturday Oct. 24 from 9 a.m. to 1 p.m, and Saturday Oct. 31 from 9 a.m. – 4 p.m.

Voting absentee in person is almost exactly like voting at the polls on Election Day, Fey has said. St. Louis County has five in-person absentee voting and ballot drop-off locations, and voters can use this app to find out if there are any wait times at the various locations. 

In addition to voting at the election authority in Boone County, voters can return their absentee ballot or cast their in-person absentee ballot at Centralia High School parking lot on October 24 and at Douglass High School on October 25, from 10 a.m. to 3 p.m. Click here for more information. 

If you’re “at-risk” of contracting COVID, do you need to provide proof of how if you’re using that option to vote absentee?

“No, we don’t need to see any documentation or explanation beyond the voter stating that they’re at risk for contracting or transmitting COVID-19,” Lennon said. It is not required at all, she said, much the same way it’s not required to provide documentation of travel plans if residents are voting absentee due to being out-of-town on Election Day.

What happens if you have requested a mail-in or absentee ballots and you don’t receive it by election day?

“We are getting that question a lot,” Fey said. “I try to emphasize that voters can always come to our office or a polling place as a last resort.”

If a voter arrives at a polling place without their absentee/mail ballot to surrender, the election judges will confirm with Fey’s office that they haven’t already voted and then give the voter a new ballot, he said.

Lennon tweeted that this was the same for Boone County.

When do you count absentee and mail in ballots, and should we expect final results on Election Night?

“If all goes well as they are tabulated that day we hope they will be the first set of results will be posted after 7 p.m. election night,” Schoeller said.  

That is assuming no technical issues that sometimes arise when working with technology, he added.

Will voters get turned away if they show up without a mask at the polls?

In Boone County, Lennon said they are requiring election judges to wear masks and voters are encouraged to wear masks through signage. They’ll also have masks available at all polling places for voters that need them. 

“That said, election judges will not turn away voters for not wearing a mask,” she said.

Voters in Kansas City can cast a ballot on Election Day at Arrowhead Stadium. Are you utilizing any out-of-the-box venues in your county?

“St. Louis County isn’t home to any major league sporting venues, so all of our polling places are pretty conventional,” Fey said. 

Before the pandemic, St. Louis County used the U.S. Grant National Historic Site, but that has been closed to the public most of the year. 

Fey said, “Hopefully we can get back to that one in future years.”

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Rebecca Rivas
Rebecca Rivas

Rebecca Rivas is a multimedia reporter who covers Missouri's cannabis industry. A graduate of the University of Missouri School of Journalism, she has been reporting in Missouri since 2001, including more than a decade as senior reporter and video producer at the St. Louis American, the nation’s leading African-American newspaper.