JEFFERSON CITY, Mo. — Secretary of State Jay Ashcroft stopped by Jefferson City Memorial Airport Tuesday afternoon as part of a series of press events to spread awareness of the new voting options recently signed into law by the governor.
“SB 631 expanded voting options for the August and November elections,” Ashcroft said. “Due to COVID-19, a voter may cast an absentee ballot if they have coronavirus or are in an at-risk category for contracting the virus. Additionally, any registered voter may request and cast a mail-in ballot.”
The bill, which was signed into law by Gov. Mike Parson in early June, expands the list of reasons that voters may request absentee ballots to include the virus. This also marks the first time mail-in voting has been allowed in the state of Missouri.
“I want to assure Missouri voters that their local election authorities are taking many precautions to make voting in person safe and secure,” Ashcroft said. “My office has provided them with sanitization options, floor distancing strips, face masks, face shields, and other items to assist with creating a safe voting environment. Voting in person is the most secure way to cast a ballot.”
Ashcroft said he expects this year to be a safe election with a high turnout.
“I fully believe that November will be the safest election people have participated in,” Ashcroft said. “We’ve had things like swine flu before and we’ve never gone to these steps that local election authorities are doing.”
He said election authorities have been taking care to clean voting machines between use during the past two elections, among other safety measures, and that expanded voting methods would likely encourage more people to vote.
Ashcroft also discussed the expanded absentee ballot program. Previously, Missouri only allowed absentee ballots without notarization to voters incapacitated or confined due to illness. Now voters may request absentee ballots and cast them without notarization if they are at high risk for the virus because of age or underlying health conditions.
Absentee voters must still have their ballots notarized if they choose that method due to religious beliefs, working in elections, incarceration, absence from their jurisdiction, or participation in an address confidentiality program. Ashcroft said that the verification of voters’ reason for voting absentee will be up to local election officials.
Absentee ballots can be requested through July 22 by mail or by Aug. 3 in person.
Mail-in voting will be available to all registered Missouri voters. All mail-in ballots must be notarized and returned to election authorities through the U.S. mail by Election Day. Ashcroft encouraged voters to get their alternative ballots in quickly to make sure that their votes count.
“Both absentee ballots and mail-in ballots must be into the election authority by 7 pm on the day of the election,” he said.
Ashcroft’s tour across Missouri’s airports made six stops on Tuesday, including in Springfield, Kansas City, and Jefferson City. He will visit four more airports in eastern Missouri on Wednesday.
Wednesday is the final day to register to vote. The next election will be held Aug. 4.