Missouri: What You Can do to Make Sure Your Vote Counts in the 2020 Election
What you need to know, including key deadlines, registration, and how to vote by mail.
The coronavirus pandemic has changed the way we interact with the world, including how we'll vote in the 2020 General Election. November 3 is fast approaching -- with registration and absentee ballot deadlines arriving even sooner.
Though the state of Missouri doesn't offer an early voting option, there are still a number of ways to cast your ballot. You can go the traditional route and hit up your local polling place in person, and the state also allows you to vote absentee. The latter route does, however, have its own set of obstacles, including strict deadlines. Here's everything you need to know to make your vote count.
What’s the deadline to register to vote in Missouri?
You must register to vote or update your registration 27 days in advance of the election, whether you're doing so in-person, by mail (based on the postmark date), or online. And that date is fast approaching, with the official deadline falling on October 7.
How to register to vote in Missouri
First and foremost, you'll wanna make sure you're actually eligible to vote in the first place. Naturally, Missouri requires you to be a citizen of the United States and resident of the state, but you also have to hit that age requirement. Obviously, it's 18 to vote, but you can be 17-1/2 for the registration process. Missouri also does not allow anyone on probation or parole after a felony conviction to register (you must be fully discharged from such probation or parole to qualify). You cannot be convicted of any voter-related felonies or misdemeanors or have been legally deemed incapacitated. Those serving out a current prison sentence are also ineligible from registration.
The Missouri Secretary of State offers four options for registering to vote: submit an online voter registration application, print and mail an application, register in person, or request an application be mailed to you.
Can I vote early?
Missouri doesn't offer early voting, unfortunately. If you're already booked solid for November 3, plan to go the mail-in route.
How to vote by mail in Missouri
Due to the COVID-19 pandemic, Missouri is allowing all eligible voters to vote by mail if they're uncomfortable with voting in person at a polling location on Election Day. It's a little bit of a process, though. If you're registered to vote, you can request a mail-in ballot from your local election authority either in person or by mail using this form. You must get your completed mail-in ballot application to your local election authority (do not send them to the Secretary of State) by no later than 5pm on October 21, but the sooner you get this part done, the better. It's only the first step.
Once you receive your mail-in ballot, well, you go ahead and fill it out. But you're not quite done after that. You have to place your voted ballot in the provided envelope with the statement on the envelope signed and witnessed by a notary. You also have to make sure your mail-ballot is received by the 7pm deadline on Election Day, and there's a chance it won't arrive on time if you wait until the last minute to mail it. Send your voted mail-ballot back as soon as you can, or at least a few days before the Election Day cutoff.
Missouri also offers the option of requesting an absentee ballot for voters who cannot make it to a polling location on Election Day. Absentee ballots are a bit different than the aforementioned mail-in ballots. For one, you need to have a legitimate excuse to request an absentee ballot, which the Missouri Secretary of State's office outlines in detail on its official "how to vote" page. Absentee ballots also work a little differently in that you're not limited to mailing them back; you can also drop them off. Additionally, you may not need to have an absentee ballot notarized like you do with all mail-in ballots.
How can I make sure my mail-in ballot is counted?
Simply put, make sure you carefully follow the ballot instructions and get it back to the election authority well ahead of the deadline to be safe. Having it notarized is also an important factor and it won't be counted if you forget this step.
How can I stay safe while voting in person?
While voting by mail is likely the safest way to participate in this election, there are ways you can reduce the risk of getting COVID-19 if you plan to vote in person at your local polling place. The Centers for Disease Control & Prevention has issued safety recommendations for voters -- all of which are simple steps you can take to protect yourself and others.
Here's a rundown of what the CDC recommends, per its official election guidance page:
- Wear a mask.
- Keep a distance of at least six feet from others at all times.
- Wash your hands both before and after leaving your polling location.
- Use alcohol-based hand sanitizer containing at least 60% alcohol frequently throughout your time inside the polling place, especially after you touch things like door hands, voting machines, and other surfaces that lots of other people touch.
- If you cough or sneeze, cover them with a tissue or the inside of your elbow. Dispose of the tissues in a lined garbage can, then use that 60% alcohol hand sanitizer again.
- Don't try to disinfect the voting machine or equipment yourself because you may end up damaging them with cleaners and disinfectant products. This is where hand sanitizer comes in again. Use it right after you touch the voting equipment, and if you use it before you touch the equipment, make sure your hands have dried first.
- Try to vote when your polling place isn't as busy. This might involve driving by and checking to see how long the line is.
- Verify that you're registered to vote before you leave home and make sure you bring any documents you'll need to avoid complications that could result in spending more time inside the polling place.
- Bring your own black ink pen for marking your ballot, or your own stylus (just check with a polling place worker before you use it).
- If possible, fill out a sample ballot at home that you can use to speed up casting your ballot at the polling location.
- The bottom line: use your common sense. We're six months into this pandemic, so you should know the drill by now.