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Mail-in voting concerns in Missouri amid post office funding fight? State rep calls for expanded special session

  

JEFFERSON CITY, Mo. — Rep. Kip Kendrick called on Gov. Mike Parson to expand the call of the special session to allow mail-in ballots delivered late to be counted.

“For several reasons, it is imperative that we do all that we can do to uphold the integrity of the election process in Missouri,” Kendrick said in a letter Friday. 

The Democrat from Columbia called President Donald Trump’s opposition of additional funding for the U.S. Postal Service and the expectation of an increase in positive COVID-19 cases in the fall as reasons for the expansion. He asked for the General Assembly to take legislative action to ensure properly postmarked ballots would be counted.

“This move would go a long way to ensure that all Missouri voters, regardless of political affiliation, will have their vote counted this November,” he said. “It is unacceptable that election integrity is in doubt at the moment, and it is even more unacceptable for our state to not take proactive measures to protect the vote.”

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Kendrick’s call comes on the heels of a letter from the U.S. Postal Service to Secretary of State Jay Ashcroft’s office warning the state’s deadlines could lead to mail-in ballots not being delivered in time to count.

“We wanted to note that, under our readings of Missouri’s election laws, certain deadlines for requesting and casting mail-in ballots may be incongruous with the Postal Service’s delivery standards,” Thomas Marshall, general counsel and executive vice president of the Postal Service, said in the letter obtained by The Missouri Times. “This mismatch creates a risk that some ballots requested near the deadline under state law will not be returned by mail in time to be counted under your laws as we understand them.”

Marshall outlined a series of recommendations, recommending voters submit ballot requests well ahead of the election, blank ballots should be mailed to voters through first-class mail at least a week ahead of time, and voters should mail their ballots by Oct. 27 at the latest (a week ahead of the election).  

The current deadline to request a mail-in ballot in Missouri is Oct. 21, less than two weeks before Election Day. Ballots must be received by the election authority by 7 p.m. on Nov. 3 to be counted. 

Marshall said there was a “significant risk” that some voters would not have adequate time to complete and mail ballots by the state’s deadline, noting that first-class and marketing mail usually takes two to five days or three to 10 days to be delivered, respectively, which could cause some ballots to arrive past the deadline. 

The Washington Post reported 46 states and Washington D.C. received the same notice from Thomas.

This is the first year that Missourians are able to vote by mail. Parson expanded voting options in June by signing SB 631 into law, allowing for mail-in voting and changed absentee voting options in the August and November elections due to the COVID-19 pandemic. Mail-in ballots are available by request to all registered Missouri voters. 

“This is a non-issue in Missouri. You can vote safely in person on Election Day, and we have already proven that three times in 2020 during the COVID pandemic,” Ashcroft said in a statement. “Any chance I get, if voters wish to vote absentee or by mail, I encourage them to apply early and to send in their ballot as soon as possible.”

The Missouri Legislature has been called back to Jefferson City to address a variety of measures put forth by Parson related to violent crime in the state. The Republican chief executive has already expanded the scope of special session to include concurrent jurisdiction. 

So far, no special session measures put forth by the governor addresses the upcoming election.

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EDITOR’S NOTE: For up-to-date information on coronavirus, check with the CDC and DHSS.