MISSOURI — Today, July 22, at 5 p.m. is the deadline for requesting an absentee ballot through the mail. Amid coronavirus concerns, this option has become accessible and appealing to voters who may be at risk for contracting the virus. KMZU spoke with the county clerks of Carroll, Livingston and Pettis counties to see how absentee voting will affect voter turnouts for the August 4 primary.
Livingston County has seen a steady increase in mail in ballots. Meanwhile, Pettis and Carroll counties are on two opposite ends of the spectrum. Pettis County Clerk Nick La Strada calls the increase in mail-in ballots “astronomical.”
“We have actually mailed out 809 (ballots) and then we’ve had 121 in person,” La Strada says. “For a primary, that’s a pretty large turnout for the mail in.”
On the other hand, Carroll County Clerk Norma Sparks says that the low demand for mail-in ballots in Carroll is rather shocking.
“I know a lot of counties have,” Sparks says. “I saw on the news where Kansas City has been inudated but we have not here so I don’t know what that means. But even though the mail out ends tomorrow, you can still vote absentee in person here at the courthouse until the day before the election.”
Seeing in increase in the requests for mail-in and absentee ballots could result in an increase in voter turnout in some counties. Although the requests for mail-in ballots are mostly unrelated to COVID-19 concerns, Livingston County Clerk Sherry Parks estimates there will be a larger turnout due to more local races.
“We have a lot of local races,” Parks says. “So we do have people requesting ballots. We have a lot of candidates out working and I think that may be one reason. Four years ago we did not have as many local races. We had a few, not as many.”
In all three counties there will be precautions taken for in-person voters who may not be at risk for contracting the virus but do have concerns about being out in public. Sparks detailed the screening process all visitors to the Carroll County Courthouse will go through.
“They’ll have to go through the screening as they come in the courthouse, like anyone else who visits the courthouse,” Sparks says. “They will be asked questions and their temperature will be taken. Most offices are requesting that you wear a mask. I’m not as insistent, but I do have a sneeze guard on my counter, and we have hand sanitizer to be used.”
One thing that may be off-putting to those interested in voting through a mail-in or absentee ballot is the worry of their vote not being counted or possibly causing a delay in tallying the results. All three clerks said despite maybe taking a little more time than usual, more absentee ballots will be counted fairly and will not interfere with the timing of the results.
“It will not create a delay,” Parks says. “It’s all computerized so I just plug the card into the computer and it should produce the file the same way.”