New Missouri law expands ability to vote from home
COLUMBIA — A new law in Missouri expands absentee voting excuses and allows mail-in voting until December 2020 due to COVID-19.
“At least in Missouri, for this year, people will not have to fear the virus by going to vote if they don’t want to go vote in-person,” former U.S. Congressman (R) Tom Coleman said.
Anyone can opt in to vote by mail by filling out a new PDF and mailing it to their county clerk’s office. This application will then be vetted by the clerk’s office and, if approved, a ballot will mailed. The ballot requires notarization before being mailed back or dropped-off in person.
As for absentee voting, there used to be 6 excuses to qualify. Under the new law, the second excuse is expanded to include anyone declared at-risk to COVID-19 through CDC guidelines.
Those people include anyone 65 years or older, in a long term care facility, or with preexisting health conditions putting them more at-risk.
While the state expands the ability to vote from home, the vetting process stays the same. Before a ballot is sent, the clerk’s office requires an application that includes the last four digits of a social security number, checks the application signature with the signature in the voter registration system, and more.
Once the ballot is cast and received again, bipartisan teams check-in each individual envelope, check the voter is registered and lives in a Boone County address, and requires the ballot to be notarized for mail-in votes and most absentee excuses.
“The more applications we get to process the more time it takes to do that, and that’s something my office is working on right now is setting up a way to do that,” Boone County Clerk, Brianna Lennon, said. “But it’s worth it when you compare it to making sure voters have the ability to cast a ballot and not have to be concerned about their safety.”
Those who qualify for absentee voting under confinement due to illness or at-risk for COVID-19 do not need to get their ballots notarized. They can also request a ballot via email, fax, in-person or by mail. Those requesting a mail-in can only do so in-person or via mail.
Lennon said she supports the expansion of ways to vote from home this year.
“We have heard concerns from people that simply didn’t want to vote because they didn’t feel comfortable,” she said. “And that’s not something we should be hearing or promoting.”
The municipal election on June 2 saw a jump in absentee votes. With a voter turnout of roughly 11%, around 3.5% were cast absentee. In comparison, last year’s local election had 899 absentee votes, while this year had 3656 absentee votes.
Coleman predicts more people will vote this year, since absentee excuses are expanded and mail-in votes are allowed.
“I think there’s much more opportunity to vote and really in America that’s what we should do—encourage people to vote,” Coleman said. “And the best way of doing it is vote early in some states and also to be able to vote from home or vote by mail.”
Requests for absentee or mail-in ballots must be received by the second Wednesday before Election Day, which is July 22 for the primary election, and Oct. 1 for the general election.