Missouri Secretary of State Jay Ashcroft came to Cape Girardeau Regional Airport July 8 as the final stop on a nine-stop, two-day trip to discuss with media the safety of in-person voting and to raise awareness of the new 2020 absentee and mail-in voting options.
“This August and November there will actually be three options for voting as opposed to the two that we’ve historically had for the last several years in Missouri,” Ashcroft said.
“Number one is in-person voting, Number two is the absentee ballot process, and number three is mail-in voting. That [number three] should not be confused; that is different than the absentee ballot that you mail in.
“First and foremost, in-person voting is what most people use. It is the most secure way to hold an election. It is also the most secure way to make sure your vote will count. If you’re like me, it’s kind of fun to run your ballot through the scanner and see that green light or the proper beep and to know that my vote has been counted. If you don’t get the proper beep, you actually get a second chance. If there is a problem with your ballot, if the machine has a problem reading it, if it thinks there is an under-vote or an over-vote, something like that, you get a second chance to correct that. You do not get that with a ballot that you mail in or send in to your election authority.
“Also, you do not have to worry about delivery time,” he added. Ashcroft told the account of a St. Louis woman who voted in the June election who mailed in her ballot six days before the election, but it took 13 days to arrive and her vote did not count.
In-person voting “is safe from a health standpoint,” Ashcroft assured. Two elections have already been held in Missouri since the outbreak of COVID-19, and there has not been a COVID-related problem during either election. “My office has provided [local voting authorities] with sanitization options, floor distancing strips, face masks, face shields and other items to assist with creating a safe voting environment.” Every election authority in Missouri received at least $20,000 to cover COVID-19 protection expenses.
In-person voting makes election results available sooner. If there is a large influx of mail-in votes late in the election cycle, and they are not tabulated until election day, those mail-in votes will not be counted until after the polls close on election day, because local officials will be focusing on the polls during the day. That could delay the releasing of election results. Instead 10 or 11 p.m. Tuesday night, it could be Wednesday or Thursday before election results are known, Ashcroft said.
If voting in person is not possible, voters may either use an absentee ballot or a mail-in ballot.
If you cannot vote in person because of religious beliefs or practice, you are working as an election official, you are incarcerated but still eligible to vote, you are absent from your election jurisdiction on election day, or you are a certified participant in an address confidentiality program, you may vote by absentee ballot (as in the past). These five qualifications require that your absentee ballot be notarized.
There are two other excuses to vote with an absentee ballot: 1) if you are incapacitated or confined due to illness or 2) if you have contracted COVID-19 or are at risk of getting it because you are 65 or older; living in a long-term care facility; have chronic lung disease or asthma, a serious heart condition, diabetes, chronic kidney disease or liver disease; or are immunocompromised, you may vote by absentee ballot without a notary.
Absentee ballots must be requested. If requested by mail, the deadline is 5 p.m. Wednesday, July 22. If you wait too long, you may not get your ballot mailed back in time to vote. If you request an absentee ballot in person, you have until the night before the election. Absentee ballots must be returned by 7 p.m. election day.
If you are a registered voter, you may also use mail-in voting. “Mail-in ballots do not require an excuse,” Ashcroft explained. “This is an entirely new means of voting that has never been used in Missouri.” To use this method, complete an application to request a mail-in ballot and mail it or deliver it to the election authority. Requests must be made by 5 p.m. Wednesday, July 22. After receiving a ballot, fill it out and have it notarized. Then return the ballot by U.S. mail so it will be received by 7 p.m. on election day (Tuesday, Aug. 4). These ballots may not be dropped off; they must be mailed.
The mail-in option is available to all registered voters, but the ballot envelope, per state law, must be notarized. Additionally, state law requires mail-in ballots to be delivered to the local election authority by U.S. mail only.