It’s less than six weeks to the November 3 election here in the United States. This has long felt like a very important election, and it’s been made even more important by the passing of Supreme Court Justice Ruth Bader Ginsburg on September 18. Between now and November 3, I’m committed to devoting a whole lot of time, energy and resources to helping people make sure they’re able to vote.
This is something that Shannon and I discussed on Episode 122 of our podcast, Getting to Good Enough, entitled Get Out the Vote, which dropped today. In this episode, we talk about making sure you’re able to vote, and how you can help get out the vote. There are loads of resources in the show notes so I encourage you to read them and/or listen to the episode.
Voting in Missouri, where I live, is confusing. And the inherent risks of voting in person on November 3 because of the pandemic have made it even more confusing. Since I’m assuming a lot of my readers are in Missouri, I want to help you understand the options. Here’s an easy-to-understand flyer on the Secretary of State’s website that spells it out well.
There are three ways to vote in Missouri. This chart on the Secretary of State website indicates the deadlines for each. Here’s my explanation of the three options.
Please note that in Missouri, absentee and mail-in voting are two different things, with different requirements.
Missouri Option 1: Absentee voting. To vote absentee, you must have an excuse. This year, because of COVID-19, anyone age 65 or older or at risk of contracting COVID, such as those with diabetes or heart problems, may vote absentee. Other excuses include being incapacitated or caring for an incapacitated person, being out of town on election day or religious beliefs. (The complete list of excuses is on the ballot request form.) Absentee ballots can be requested by mail (deadline is October 21 at 5 pm) or in person (deadline is November 2). An absentee ballot request form can be found here. Most absentee ballots must be notarized. The exceptions are for those who indicated a health reason (including all voters age 65 or older) or those caring for an incapacitated person. Absentee ballots can be returned by mail or dropped off. You can also vote absentee in person at your local election authority in advance of the election and you do not have to apply in advance to do so. In St. Louis city and county (and probably elsewhere in Missouri) satellite absentee voting sites will open next month.
Missouri Option 2: Mail-in voting. This year, because of COVID-19, Missouri is offering no-excuse mail-in voting for the first time. You do not need an excuse to vote by mail; however, all mail-in ballots must be notarized and you MUST return your ballot through the U.S. Postal Service. You can request a mail-in ballot by mail or in person at your local election authority. Here’s a link to a mail-in-ballot application. The deadline to request a mail-in ballot is October 21 at 5 pm.
IMPORTANT NOTE: If you live in St. Louis and need a ballot notarized, contact me at firstname.lastname@example.org. I became a notary public in August specifically to help make it easier for people to vote by mail or absentee and I want to help you. I do not charge for notarizing a ballot.
Missouri Option 3: Go to the polls on election day. Voting in person is certainly an option. Be sure you know where your polling place is since the number of polling places in your area may have been reduced. Be sure to wear a mask and follow social distancing practices. And prepare to be there awhile. Because of the potential for a reduced number of polling places, and the importance of the election, long lines are likely. Go to this page on the Secretary of State’s website to find your polling place and to see what issues are on the ballot in your jurisdiction.
If you’re planning to mail your ballot, give it plenty of time to get there. I suggest considering October 20 your deadline.
This year it’s really important to make a plan to vote. You don’t want to wait until the last minute and find out that your options are more limited than you thought. You also want to make sure you understand the different options, choose the appropriate one and execute it properly. If you make a mistake—and unfortunately, it’s easy to make a mistake—your vote may be disqualified. If you have any questions about Missouri voting, feel free to reach out to me. I’m happy to help make it more clear.
If you live in a state other than Missouri, you can go to Vote.org to find out the voting rules in your state. I’m happy to help you navigate your options as well, if you’d like.
Edited to add: I’m planning to do a separate post about this, but it bears mentioning now that you should educate yourself about what’s on your ballot before going to the polls or filling out your absentee/mail-in ballot. The League of Women Voters has a website, Vote411.org, that provides information on your election based on your address. Right now, it lists only the presidential race when I enter my address. But Missouri’s Voter Outreach page had a more comprehensive listing of what’s on the ballot when I entered my address.