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Politics

How To Vote By Mail – And Make Sure It Gets Counted

Ballot
Ken Zirkel
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Voters have some choices on how to cast ballots this year in Missouri:  Vote in person, vote absentee or vote with a mail-in ballot. ALL mail-in ballots must be notarized.  Some absentee ballots must be notarized.  Those include anyone voting absentee who fall into one of these categories:

  • Voting absentee due to religious beliefs or practices
  • Working as an election worker
  • Incarceration, if still eligible to vote
  • Certified participation in an address confidentiality program
  • Absence on election day from your election jurisdiction

Voters are eligible to vote absentee WITHOUT a notary if they fall into one of these categories:

  • Incapacity or confinement due to illness
  • In 2020 has contracted coronavirus or is at risk due to any of the following:
  1. Is age 65 or older
  2. Lives in a long-term care facility
  3. Has chronic lung disease or asthma
  4. Has a serious heart condition
  5. Is immunocompromised
  6. Has diabetes
  7. Has chronic kidney disease and is undergoing dialysis
  8. Has liver disease

Find more information about mail-in and absentee voting here.  

KSMU asked Greene County election officials how people can make sure their votes are counted.

 

There are specific rules voters have to follow if they want their mail-in vote counted, like signing the ballot and having the envelope notarized. But state law also requires ballots to be delivered to the election office by the time polls close at 7 p.m. on Election Day. That means even if voters’ ballots are postmarked before then, they can be thrown out if they aren’t delivered on time.

Shane Schoeller, Greene County Clerk and chief election officer, says the reason for the cutoff is to treat mail-in and in-person voting equally.

“If you’re voting in person, you have to be there by 7 P.M. in order to be able to cast a ballot," Schoeller said. "And so anyone who votes by mail, they [election officials] treat them as the same as the person who votes in person.”

But there are concerns that ballots might not make it to election officials in time to count.

According to numbers from NPR, 0.65% of the more than 62,000 mail-in and absentee votes in the presidential primaries in Missouri were rejected for arriving late. According to the Greene County clerk’s office, the county rejected seven absentee ballots for arriving late, or 0.37% of the total ballots received in the presidential primaries earlier this year. These ballots, plus those rejected for other reasons, made up 3.03% of the total number of ballots. NPR counted absentee and mail-in votes together, but voters have the option to drop absentee ballots off at the county clerk’s office or mail them in.

Under a new law passed by the state legislature in the spring, voters with preexisting conditions can mail in a ballot without needing to have it notarized. Again, this includes people over 65, those who live in nursing homes, or people with conditions like asthma or heart disease.

But what if someone doesn’t meet this requirement? Schoeller says they can still vote by mail if they want.

“Those voters, they can request a mail-in ballot, either by mail or email, and then they have to, once they get that ballot, have it notarized and then mail it back,” Schoeller told KSMU.

Voters can request a mail-in ballot now for the November 3 election. The deadline to submit a request for a mail-in ballot is October 21 at 5 P.M., and once voters get a ballot, it has to be notarized.

While getting an absentee ballot notarized is required to be free under state law, new legislation passed by Missouri legislators this year does not require this for mail-in ballots. Because of this, the Missouri Secretary of State’s Office assembled a list of notaries who are offering the service for free for those voting with a mail-in ballot. In Springfield, the Library Center and Library Station are also offering free notary services.  

Once a ballot is notarized, it can be mailed back to the county clerk’s office. Schoeller says voters should return them as soon as possible.

More information here.