Registered voters in Missouri will be able to vote absentee, by mail or in person with social distancing modifications in both the Aug 4 and Nov. 3 elections.

Voting options expanded in Missouri for the 2020 elections after Gov. Mike Parson signed Senate Bill 631, which allows voters to submit absentee ballots if they have COVID-19 or are at risk for contracting the virus. The bill also allows voters to request mail-in ballots.

The deadline to register to vote in Missouri’s August primary is 5 p.m. Wednesday. Boone County residents can register on the county clerk’s website.

Secretary of State Jay Ashcroft outlined the rules for the revised voting methods during a news conference Tuesday.

Absentee ballots are available for registered voters who are unable to come to the polls in person on election day.

All absentee ballots must be notarized unless the voter is incapacitated or confined because of illness, has contracted the coronavirus or is at risk.

Those at risk are defined as people:

  • 65 or older.
  • Living in long-term care facilities.
  • With chronic lung disease or asthma.
  • With serious heart conditions.
  • Who are immunocompromised.
  • With diabetes.
  • With chronic kidney disease undergoing dialysis.
  • With liver disease.

Absentee ballots can be requested at the county clerk’s office until the day before an election. Ballots can be turned in either by mail or in person.

Along with provisions related to COVID-19, SB 631 allows mail-in ballots for the first time for any registered voter in Missouri. However, all mail-in ballots will have to be notarized.

The deadline to apply for both absentee and mail-in ballots for the August primaries is 5 p.m. July 22.

In Boone County, voters can cast an absentee ballot at the Boone County Government Center or submit a ballot by mail. Information on where to apply for either option is on the Boone County Clerk’s website.

Ashcroft said absentee and mail-in ballots will be counted only if election authorities receive them by 7 p.m. on election day. In addition, voters turning in ballots by mail must use the U.S. Postal Service.

SB 631 requires absentee ballots be notarized for free, but not mail-in ballots. The Secretary of State’s website has compiled a list of places where Missourians can have their ballots notarized.

In Boone County, notaries at the clerk’s office can authenticate ballots in person and at curbside for free, Boone County Clerk Brianna Lennon said.

With a low in-person voter turnout during Boone County’s municipal elections, Lennon said she anticipates an increased number of absentee ballots for the August primary. She said the county has received about 3,500 requests for both absentee and mail-in ballots so far.

Even with the new options, Ashcroft said both the March presidential preference primary and the June municipal elections in Missouri served as examples of how in-person voting during the coronavirus pandemic can be safe.

“We want to remind people we’ve done this under COVID before and we can continue to do it,” Ashcroft said. “The safest way to hold an election is when people go in person to vote at their assigned election place on election day, but it’s also the best way to make sure your vote counts.”

Ashcroft’s office has provided local election offices across the state with sanitization options, floor distancing strips, face masks, face shields and more to promote social distancing in polling places.

Lennon said polling places in the county will have all of these modifications as well as plexiglass dividers between poll workers and voters. Lennon also said that, just like during the June municipal elections, she will deploy students in August to help staff the polls and make sure social distancing guidelines are being followed.

The Boone County Clerk’s office is still actively recruiting people to work the elections in August and November, Lennon said.

For more COVID-19 related news, see our section dedicated to COVID-19 updates.
  • Assistant city editor for the public health and safety beat. I am a second year graduate student studying public policy journalism. You can reach me at mne275@umsystem.edu or on Twitter @MikaylaEasley

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