Missouri Secretary of State Jay Ashcroft visited the Rolla City Hall to meet with city and county employees to discuss voting options and safety for the November election. Missouri voters have until October 7 to register for the November 3 general election and Ashcroft outlined the three voting options voters have during his September 24 meeting.
“There are 113 election authorities across the state along with the secretary of state that are happy to answer any questions and help individuals to help with, not who they vote for, but to make sure they know the rules and how to do so (vote),” Ashcroft told local city officials and members of the local election authority.
He said each of these authorities have been working diligently to ensure in-person voting is safe and COVID-19 precautions are put into place. Missouri is also allowing absentee and mail-in voting as well for those not able to vote in person.
“This will be the safest election we’ve ever had. We’ve never had the mandatory, I say physical distancing. I don’t think we need to be socially distancing ourselves, just physically. We’ve never had the disinfectant, the hand sanitizer. Our office just sent out 25,000 face masks to election authorities across the state to make sure poll workers have those. We’ve already distributed over 17,000 face shields,” Ashcroft explained.
He the state will have sent out over 1,000 gallons of hand sanitizer by the time of the election.
“We’ve released over four and a half million dollars for election authorities to use to improve their polling places. Twenty-one election authorities have increased their polling places. So, we have more polling places than we’ve had before. Others have taken small ones, combined them, and put them in gymnasiums so we can spread people out and have one way direction of people. This is going to be the safest election we’ve ever had,” he said.
He added he was called to speak before congress due to the success of the August primary, the lack of lines, and the systems in place to allow for safe in-person voting when others across the country have had issues with long lines and issues with voting.
The Missouri Legislature has made some voting changes this year due to the ongoing coronavirus pandemic and is allowing voters to have a choice in how they vote, whether at the polls, absentee, or mail-in. One area Ashcroft touched upon was mail-in ballots, which has caught national attention due to the confusion on its safety.
“Local postal service employees have been doing a good job helping us. I had some happiness with the national post office sending a letter telling people their election mail would be taken care of in six or seven days. We’ve seen election mail that has taken longer than that so, really since June, we’ve been telling people at least two weeks,” he said. “It’s a great thing to see that our local postal employees are doing everything possible that vote mail is processed correctly and I’m thrilled about it.”
The simplest way for a registered voter to vote is in person, with rules remaining the same as it has always been. Registered voters can stop at their polling place on November 3 and cast a ballot.
“When you vote in person and you get to slide your ballot through the scanner, you’re not going to get rejected. It’s done,” Ashcroft said.
Absentee voting is much the same as it has been in the past but has been expanded for individuals who are considered at-risk of developing severe complications if they get COVID-19. Following certain requirements, voters can vote absentee in person at the Phelps County Clerk’s office from September 22 to November 2 at 5 p.m. In this case, it is much like voting at the polls, except you are doing it in the clerk’s office. The clerk’s office will also offer special Saturday in-person absentee voting from 8 a.m. to noon on October 31.
Absentee voters will receive a ballot by mail and must complete it and return it in person or by mail no later than 7 p.m. on November 3. If someone is hospitalized after October 21, they may also vote absentee using a deputized absentee team that can deliver a ballot to the hospital.
Voters must meet one of the following conditions to vote absentee, with some required to get their ballots notarized. Those voting absentee due to religious belief or practice, working as an election worker, incarceration (but still eligible to vote), absence on election day, or who are a certified participant in an address confidentiality program must get their ballots notarized. If, however, you are voting absentee because of an incapacity or confinement due to illness, have contracted coronavirus, or are considered at-risk due being age 65 or older, live in a long-term care facility, have chronic lung disease or moderate to severe asthma, have a serious heart condition, are immunocompromised, have diabetes, have chronic kidney disease and are undergoing dialysis, or have liver disease, then you do not have to get your ballot notarized.
People may also request a mail-in ballot in person or by mail no later than October 21. These ballots will be sent to voters by mail and must be received by mail at the county clerk’s office no later than 7 p.m. on November 3 to be counted.
Applications for requesting a mail-in ballot can be found at www.sos.mo.gov. Mail-in ballots requests should be mailed to: Phelps County Clerk, 200 North Main Street, Rolla MO, 65401. Completed ballots must be mailed to the clerk’s office with the envelope notarized. They cannot be dropped off in person.
If you are not registered to vote, you may register until 5 p.m. on October 7. Registration applications can be found at www.sos.mo.gov and can be completed and mailed to the county clerk’s office or filled out online. Those who will turn 18 on or before November 3 must still register to vote before the deadline.
Anyone with questions about absentee or mail-in voting may contact Phelps County Clerk Pam Grow’s office at 573-458-6115.