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Expanded absentee voting amid COVID-19 likely won’t be available by June election

COLUMBIA, Mo. (KMIZ)

Missouri lawmakers on Friday approved an expansion of absentee voting for the rest of 2020.

However, local county clerks said the measure likely will not go into effect in time for the June 2 election.

According to the bill, any registered voter can cast an absentee ballot if “the voter has contracted or is in an at-risk category for contracting or transmitting severe acute respiratory syndrome coronavirus.”

The bill defines those at-risk for COVID-19 as:

  • 65 years of age or older
  • Living in a long-term care facility
  • Having a chronic lung disease or asthma
  • Having serious heart conditions
  • Are immunocompromised
  • Having diabetes
  • Having chronic kidney diseases and receiving dialysis
  • Having liver disease

Boone County Clerk Brianna Lennon said if the governor signs the bill into law, it would create new opportunities for the August and November elections this year.

"One, it creates a new excuse in absentee voting," Lennon said. "This is a new excuse that is specific to the 2020 pandemic situation."

Absentee ballots sent by voters using this excuse would not need to be notarized.

"The second avenue it has is a mail-in ballot option," Lennon said. "That does not require you to state an excuse, but you can only apply by mail or in-person in order to request that and it needs to be notarized."

The deadline to request an absentee ballot is Wednesday and Gov. Mike Parson had not signed the bill as of Monday evening. Both Lennon and Cole County Clerk Steve Korsmeyer said the short timeline along with changes county clerks have to implement to make the change happen means using the new excuse in the June election is not practical.

Parson said he and his staff will be looking into the bill within the next few days to decide on whether he will sign it into law.

Korsmeyer also said it is still unclear how the changes would be implemented in the August and November elections.

"Apparently we're going to have new envelopes with the new excuse just for 2020 elections, so I'm not sure if the Secretary of State is going to provide those envelopes or we have to try to get them on our own..." Korsmeyer said. "They're invalid after this year. So, it's a lot of taxpayer money that could be wasted on envelopes."

Lennon said in Boone County, more absentee voting means they will likely need more staffers for the later elections. She said county clerks across the nation are asking for more federal resources to help in providing this extra help.

For people concerned about contracting COVID-19 at the polls on June 2, there are still some other options that are specific to individual counties.

"There is an excuse that says 'confinement due to illness or injury ...'" Lennon said. "I could see voters using that excuse here as well."

That excuse is the second option on the application for absentee voting. It is also the only one that does not require notarization. Lennon said it is up to individual voters as to whether they feel comfortable applying under that excuse.

Korsmeyer said the same option is available in Cole County.

"I don't think it will be checked on, and nobody's going to come to their house to make sure that they're confined or they're sick, so I don't see a problem with it," said Korsmeyer.

The application for an absentee ballot is available online. The ballot must be returned to the clerk's office by Election Day.

Boone / Columbia / Local Politics / Missouri Politics / News / Politics / Top Stories / Your Voice Your Vote

Molly Stawinoga

Molly Stawinoga is ABC 17’s weekend morning anchor, reporter and producer at ABC 17 News. Molly joined the news team in 2017 while studying political science, journalism and Spanish at the University of Missouri. She is originally from DeKalb, Illinois.

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