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Voting protocols set for Aug. 4
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Voting protocols set for Aug. 4

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Voting protocols set for Aug. 4

St. Francois County Clerk Kevin Engler encourages registered voters to vote absentee at Election Central on Weber Road if they’re reluctant to visit the polls in person for the Aug. 4 primary.

Chatter about the upcoming elections is heating up — for both the primary on Aug. 4 and the general election on Nov. 3, a presidential election.

For those new to voting, the process can be slightly confusing. If you hadn’t registered to vote by July 8, you’re out of luck for voting in the Aug. 4 primary. You can still vote in the Nov. 3 presidential election if you become a registered voter by visiting Election Central, 1101 Weber Road, Ste. 302 in Farmington, before close of business on Oct. 7.

For those who are newly-registered but are still unclear on how the Aug. 4 election factors into the Nov. 3 election, the Aug. 4 primary determines which party candidate will move on to the Nov. 3 ballot. For instance, multiple Republican candidates are vying for the same public office in the Aug. 4 primary, striving to be that party’s contender in the Nov. 3 race. The Missouri Senate District 3 race is one of them, with three Republican contenders.

St. Francois County’s election authority is County Clerk Kevin Engler.

He said sometimes, people mistakenly shrug off primary elections, thinking the general election — like the presidential election Nov. 4 which ultimately determines the officeholder on the local or state level — is “greater than” the primary.

“They think, ‘Well, I’ll just vote in November after the candidates have been figured out,’” Engler said. “But the primary isn't only where candidates are figured out. When you have multiple races in which there’s no one from the opposing party to run against in November, and you have two or more candidates running on the same ticket for one office, you are voting for who’s going to hold that office. Primaries are extremely important.”

Secretary of State Jay Ashcroft recently released voting options for Aug. 4 that take into account COVID-19 precautions. They include in-person voting, absentee ballots and mail-in voting.

“I want to assure Missouri voters that their local election authorities (LEAs) are taking many precautions to make voting in person safe and secure,” Ashcroft said. “My office has distributed $4.5 million in federal and state funds and provided them with sanitizer, floor distancing strips, face masks, face shields and other items to assist with creating a safe voting environment. Voting in person is the most secure way to cast a ballot.”

Engler said if voters want to wait until Aug. 4 to vote at their precinct, each voting location will be given a pre-packed bundle of PPE for the election personnel, cleaning supplies, and wipes for everything from the booths to the pens, but a safer option is to show up before Aug. 4 to vote at Election Central on Weber Road, where they can be in and out in 10 minutes if they absentee vote.

“It’s perfect for seniors or those who are immunocompromised,” he said. “We had 27 voters come through in one day, everything’s sanitized between voters, it’s a short walk from the front door to our office. Just bring your ID and vote.

“We’ve also had curbside absentee voting, where if you call and let us know you’re coming, we’ll send two people out to the awning at the entrance, you just pull forward a little bit so people can get in and out of the entrance, and we’ll take care of everything out there for you.”

In-person voting

In-person voting is the traditional method in which you first find your polling place at the Voter Outreach Portal at www.voteroutreach.sos.mo.gov. On Aug. 4, you show up with your voter ID and cast your ballot.

Local election officials are preparing polling places to provide space between voters and poll workers, and providing other safeguards, like hand sanitizer, face masks and face shields for poll workers. For curb-side voting at election precincts, call Election Central for details, 573-454-2886 ext. 2.

Absentee ballot voting

Voting by absentee has been available for more than 30 years, according to Ashcroft’s office. Until recently passed Senate Bill 631, six excuses existed to obtain an absentee ballot, all but one of which require a notary. If you are incapacitated or confined due to illness, you are not required to have your ballot envelope notarized.

SB 631 created another justification to vote by absentee ballot. The new option allows voters to be eligible if they have coronavirus or are at risk because they fall into any of the following categories:

  • are age 65 or older;
  • live in a long term care facility;
  • have chronic lung disease or moderate to severe asthma;
  • have serious heart conditions;
  • are immunocompromised;
  • have diabetes;
  • have chronic kidney disease and are undergoing dialysis; or
  • have liver disease.

Under these circumstances, you’re not required to have your ballot notarized.

You’re still required to have your ballot notarized if you’re absentee voting due to:

  • religious beliefs or practice,
  • working as an election worker,
  • incarcerated but still eligible to vote,
  • being absent from your election jurisdiction on election day or
  • being a certified participant in an address confidentiality program.

In those circumstances, you’re required to have your ballot envelope notarized. Absentee ballots can be received by request in person, by mail, fax or email. An in-person request may be made up until the day before the election and the ballot completed in the office of the election official; other methods of request must be made by July 22.

A dual absentee/mail-in ballot application may be found at https://www.sos.mo.gov/CMSImages/ElectionGoVoteMissouri//2020FillableBallotApplication.pdf

Absentee ballots must be returned in person or by mail to the county clerk’s office by the close of the election at 7 p.m. on Aug. 4.

Mail-in voting

Mail-in voting became a hot topic nationwide during the general shutdown, so Missouri’s SB 631 created a mail-in ballot option available to all registered voters. The option is temporary this year, due to COVID-19.

Any registered voter may request a mail-in ballot in person or by mail, but requests to the Secretary of State’s Office must be made by July 22. A dual absentee/mail-in application may be found at https://www.sos.mo.gov/CMSImages/ElectionGoVoteMissouri//2020FillableBallotApplication.pdf

State law requires the ballot envelope to be notarized, and mail-in ballots can only be delivered to St. Francois County Clerk’s Office by U.S. mail. Ballots must be received in the county clerk’s office by the end of the election, 7 p.m. on Aug. 4.

Engler said his office is already working with mail-in ballots, but with the added expense to the taxpayers — not to the voter, voters should pay nothing for voting, unless it’s notarized — Engler encourages absentee voting at Election Central, if possible. He indicated that the mail-in ballot packages can cost between $5-10 when postage, return postage, materials and manpower are factored in.

About notary requirements

Several of the voting options require the ballot envelope to be notarized. A notary public acts as an impartial witness and an official of integrity, putting a sort of “stamp of approval” on legal documents. Notarization helps insure the person who requested the ballot is the same person who is submitting it.

The county clerk’s office has a notary public on hand, but others who are volunteering to help notarize election ballots can be found at https://www.sos.mo.gov/elections/MailinNotary.

It’s against the law for notaries to charge a fee for notarizing an absentee ballot, but SB 631 did not forbid notaries from charging to notarize a mail-in ballot. That’s why the Secretary of State’s office is compiling a list of organizations and individuals who have volunteered to provide both services free of charge.

More information on St. Francois County’s elections can be found at Election Central at https://sfcgov.org/county-elections/

Sarah Haas is the assistant editor for the Daily Journal. She can be reached at 573-518-3617 or at shaas@dailyjournalonline.com.

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