Missouri Election Day FAQ: What you need to know to make sure your vote counts

2020 Elections vote

(Missouri Independent) – Across Missouri, local election officials have received 628,395 mail-in and absentee ballots, according to the Secretary of State’s Oct. 27 report.  Already, that’s more than twice the total absentee ballots counted in the November 2016 election.

While many Missourians have already voted by mail or in-person absentee, many more will head out to the polls on Nov. 3. If that’s you, The Independent tried to answer some of the questions you may have about voting on Election Day.

Do I go to my usual polling place?

Local election officials have done some rearranging to ensure social distancing at the polls. Before you head out the door, check your voter registration and polling location at GoVoteMissouri.com

Some local election officials said the state’s website has the most up-to-date information on the new polling sites. Others recommended going directly to the county’s website or calling local officials instead. The GoVoteMissouri.com website will also provide the information you need to contact your local election authority.

How do I find out what’s on the ballot?

Local election authorities provide sample ballots, which voters can study, fill out, and bring with them on Election Day to use as a guide. They are typically posted on your county’s website. Researching your ballot ahead of time will help cut down on the time you spend at the polls, and local election officials are encouraging voters to do this.

What time do polls open?

Polls across the state open at 6 a.m. and close at 7 p.m. Voters in line by 7 p.m. are entitled to cast a ballot.

What are acceptable forms of ID to vote?

Whichever form of identification you choose from the list below, it must have your current address on it. It doesn’t have to have your photo. Those include:

  • Missouri state-issued driver’s license or state ID
  • U.S. Passport or military ID
  • Voter notification card that your local election authority sends in the mail
  • Student ID from a Missouri college, university, or technical college
  • A current utility bill, bank statement, paycheck, government check, or other government documents that contain the name and address of the voter.

If you do not have any of these forms of identification but are a registered voter, you may cast a provisional ballot. Your ballot will count if you return to your polling place on Election Day with a photo ID, or the signature on your provisional ballot envelope is determined by your local election authority to match the signature on your voter registration record.

If you cast a provisional ballot, you will receive a stub from your provisional ballot envelope with instructions on how to verify that your vote was counted.

Can I wear a T-shirt with my candidate’s name on it?

Missouri election law (115.637 RSMo.) prohibits wearing political apparel to the polls, advocating for a candidate or issue within 25 feet of a polling place, or taking photos of ballots.

“We urge voters to leave political masks, t-shirts, hats, buttons and other apparel at home,” Secretary of State Jay Ashcroft said.

Will I be turned away if I don’t wear a face mask?

Each county has a different policy. Officials from St. Louis County, Boone County, and Greene County all said they are encouraging voters to wear a mask and will provide one if they don’t have a mask.

However, if voters in St. Louis County refuse to wear a mask, they will only be able to vote outside. In both Boone County and Greene County, voters can still vote inside the building if they refuse to wear a mask.

Local election officials are preparing polling places to provide space between voters and poll workers, Ashcroft said. They are also providing hand sanitizer, face masks, and face shields for poll workers. 

Curbside voting is also available; call your local election official for details.

What if I have a mail-in ballot, but I haven’t mailed it yet?

If you have not mailed your ballot yet, don’t try to do so now. It won’t arrive in time to be counted. In most counties, you can bring the mail-in ballot to your polling location. The poll workers will “spoil it” and give you a new ballot, according to the Secretary of State’s office. This is the case for St. Louis County, Greene County, and Boone County, for example.

However, each election authority can set its own procedures.

Kansas City Board of Election Commissioners, for instance, can only process this request at their central location, election officials said. And voters must have both the ballot and ballot envelope, unlike St. Louis County which only requires the ballot.

Absentee ballots — which are different from mail-in ballots — can be dropped off at your polling location until 7 p.m. on Election Day in most counties. However, Kansas City and others are also having voters surrender their absentee ballots and vote in person. Absentee ballots were set to people who requested them because they were going to be out of town or were at high risk of contracting COVID-19, among other reasons. Mail-in ballots were available to everyone, but they had to be notarized and returned by mail. 

Call your election authority if you are unsure what to do with your mail-in or absentee ballot on election day.

What happens if I have requested a mail-in or absentee ballot, and I didn’t receive it by election day?

“I try to emphasize that voters can always come to our office or a polling place as a last resort,” said Eric Fey, Democratic director of elections for the St. Louis County Election Board.

If a voter arrives at a polling place without their absentee/mail ballot to surrender, the election judges will confirm with the local election authority that they haven’t already voted and then give the voter a new ballot, Fey said.

When will absentee and mail-in ballots be counted, and should we expect final results on Election Night?

“If all goes well as they are tabulated that day we hope they will be the first set of results will be posted after 7 p.m. election night,” said Greene County Clerk Shane Schoeller.  

That is assuming no technical issues that sometimes arise when working with technology, he added.

The Secretary of State’s election night reporting site, at enr.sos.mo.gov, will be updated throughout the night. The site will begin showing results once all voters have finished casting ballots. Local election authorities may begin posting results prior to the state’s site.

Who can I call if I need help?

Voters may call the Secretary of State hotline at 1-800-669-8683 with any questions. 

The nonpartisan Election Protection’s hotline (866-OUR-VOTE) will also have volunteer lawyers ready to answer questions on election day. 

Rebecca Rivas

https://missouriindependent.com/

Rebecca Rivas covers civil rights, criminal justice, and immigration. She has been reporting in Missouri since 2001, most recently as a senior reporter and video producer at the St. Louis American, the nation's leading African-American newspaper.