To the Editor:
“Curbside Voting Available, Request Within.” No, it’s not a joke. These are the words on the signs posted outside of each polling place in St. Charles County.
For as long as I can remember, this has been the policy of the St. Charles County Election Authority. If you want to vote but have a disability that makes it difficult to get out of your car and go inside, you’re at the mercy of whoever happens to be walking by when you arrive at your polling place.
For most of us, voting in St. Charles County is fairly easy. But for those who are disabled, these simple acts can be a hardship and may make the difference as to whether or not they can cast their vote. In 2016, the voter turnout rate for people with disabilities in Missouri was 10% lower than the general population. Clearly, those voters are not being served.
One remedy available to disabled voters is to apply to be placed on the permanently disabled list, which allows voting by mail. However, voters need to apply well in advance and be dependent on both the post office as well as the discretion of the election officials who have the final say as to whether or not their ballot is accepted. In 2020, St. Charles County rejected over 1,000 absentee and mail-in ballots, more than any other county in the state. That’s 1.5% of all the early votes cast in St. Charles County and more than twice the statewide average. This abnormally high rejection rate discriminates against the many citizens in our county who have no other way to vote.
The election authority seems to view its responsibility to the public as doing only the minimum required by law to serve the voters. I think that the citizens of the most prosperous county in the state deserve better than the bare minimum.