An executive order by Gov. Mike Parson declaring a state of emergency and a request from Secretary of State Jay Ashcroft were two nails in the coffin of the April 7 municipal elections.
Following those orders, Parson signed Executive Order 20-03 ordering all Missouri municipal elections previously scheduled for April 7 to be postponed to June 2.
As the June date draws closer, the St. Charles County Election Authority has announced a slew of changes to help reinforce safety measures while allowing voters the ability to participate in the election.
Registered Missourians who expect to be prevented from physically going to their polling place on Election Day were allowed to vote absentee beginning Feb. 25, or approximately six weeks before the original election date. That absentee voting period has officially been extended to June 1.
According to St. Charles County Director of Elections Kurt Bahr, the state of Missouri’s absentee voting system is based off a set of circumstances that, if met, make a resident eligible to cast an absentee ballot.
“Missouri operates under an excuse-based absentee system,” Bahr explained.
The guidelines, set in stone by the secretary of state, are applied to all general municipal elections statewide. Absentee voters must provide one of the following reasons for voting absentee:
- Absence on Election Day from the jurisdiction where an individual is registered to vote.
- Incapacity or confinement due to illness or physical disability, including individuals who are primarily responsible for the physical care of someone who is incapacitated or confined due to illness or disability.
- Religious belief or practice.
- Employment as an election authority, as a member of an election authority, or by an election authority at a location other than a voter’s polling place.
- Incarceration [provided all qualifications for voting are retained].
- Certified participation in the address confidentiality program because of safety concerns. This also includes individuals in protective programs as a result of domestic violence.
While the option of citing “confinement due to illness” does account for individuals who have been diagnosed with COVID-19, fear as a result of the pandemic is not being accepted by the state as a qualifying circumstance for voting absentee.
“The secretary of state basically said that COVID is not a reason to vote absentee,” Bahr said.
The deadline to request an absentee ballot by mail is 5 p.m. on May 20.
In-person absentee ballots must be cast in the election authority office,
397 Turner Blvd. in St. Peters, by 5 p.m. on June 1. Absentee ballots sent via mail must be received by the St. Charles County Election Authority by 7 p.m. on June 2.
Military and overseas voters must request a ballot from the election authority by 5 p.m. on May 29, and those must be submitted to the election authority by June 5. Both email and mailed ballots are accepted.
Voting at polling places
According to the St. Charles County Election Authority’s website, items like disinfectant wipes, masks
Social distancing measures will be enforced at polling places. This will be accomplished by adding additional space between both judge tables and voting booths. Depending on recommendations issued by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention at the time of the election, voters may also be required to stand a certain distance apart while waiting in line.
A public test of all voting equipment will be completed no later than June 1.
While other areas have reduced the number of physical polling places to assure adequate staffing available, St. Charles County has no plans to reduce or alter its current polling places. According to Bahr, the reason for this decision is to in
“If we reduce the number of polling places, that means there will be more voters gathering at any one of the locations,” Bahr said.
However, Bahr said there are two polling locations inside senior living facilities that will not be used. Discussions are currently underway as to where those polling places will be relocated. Residents impacted by the location changes will be notified by mail of their new polling place.
All polling places are scheduled to open promptly at 6 a.m. on election day. Doors will close and polling will end at 7 p.m. According to the secretary of state’s website, individuals who are in line by 7 p.m. will be allowed to cast their votes.