In the days following the March 10th presidential preference primary, while the severity of the COVID-19 pandemic was accelerating, local election authorities across the state began sounding the alarm about the challenges to administering elections during emergency situations. Shortly after that election, both the courts and Governor Parson agreed that a postponement of the April 7, 2020, election to June 2, 2020, would be in the best interest of Missouri’s voters and election judges. However, there is still work to do to make sure every eligible Missouri voter can safely, securely, and accessibly cast a ballot in the remaining elections of 2020.
Local election authorities are acutely aware of the limitations of Missouri’s election law and the effects that it has on the average voter. They have all heard from voters who are struggling with the decision of casting a ballot or feeling that they are risking their health by venturing to a polling place during the current pandemic. The Missouri Association of County Clerks and Election Authorities is working hard and together to share best practices, but they also want to work with our representatives in the legislature.
The Missouri Association of County Clerks and Election Authorities represents 116 county clerks and boards of elections that administer every election that takes place in Missouri. The association has identified six concrete measures that would help protect voters, election judges, and the integrity of our elections.
These measures would permit:
1) the Secretary of State and local election authorities to petition Missouri courts in emergency situations so that election administrators can request temporary election changes for the benefit of voters;
2) voters to request an absentee ballot under a seventh valid excuse: “a declared statewide state of emergency.” This excuse, like the “incapacity or confinement due to illness or physical disability” excuse, would not require notarization so that voters experiencing the hardship of a state of emergency can safely and securely cast a ballot;
3) necessary changes to administrative deadlines to allow local election authorities to safely and efficiently process absentee ballots;
4) drop-off boxes for voters to submit their absentee ballot to their local election authority; and
5) a statewide electronic absentee ballot application integrated into the Missouri Centralized Voter Registration system.
6) mailed in ballots received by Friday of the election to count only if postmarked by election day.
Importantly, the association is not asking for an extension of the limited mail-in election law currently in place. Absentee voting in Missouri has been and continues to be a safe and secure method of casting a ballot.
Elections require integrity, security, and accessibility and, in order to deliver the caliber of elections that Missouri voters expect and deserve, we need meaningful modifications to our laws to address the current challenges presented during a declared emergency. These measures give election administrators the tools necessary to ensure that the 2020 elections are successful.
Please contact your legislators regarding this proposed legislation, in order to give Missouri’s Election Authorities the tools needed to conduct elections during a declared state emergency.