Missouri voters who test positive for COVID-19 — or are otherwise so ill or injured they cannot make it to the polls Tuesday — must rely on local election authorities for emergency voting options, according to the Secretary of State’s Office.
State statute says those who become hospitalized after the second Wednesday before an election are able to receive an emergency absentee ballot, with local election officials appointing a team to deliver, witness the signing of, and return an emergency ballot. A spokeswoman for the office said it’s up to the local authorities to ensure Missourians who still want to vote, despite a COVID-19 diagnosis, are able to.
Boone County Clerk Brianna Lennon said her county hadn’t received much input from the state on the matter.
“The state advised us that ‘we shouldn’t direct any voter in isolation or quarantine to go to a polling place,’” Lennon told The Missouri Times. “Another note from Dr. Randall Williams said that they should not go to polling places and that they can vote at home.”
Lennon said her team faced challenges getting ballots to voters’ residences, and that the rising number of cases in the area had forced them to improvise.
“We have curbside voting available right now, and we have sent several teams out to voters’ homes to deliver absentee ballots, but today is the deadline for that,” she said. “We had teams going out at the end of last week and two teams we sent out today, but obviously there isn’t an efficient way of delivering ballots to people’s homes so it’s certainly been a challenge.”
Lennon said the county had hosted alternative voting events over the weekend to accommodate voters experiencing changes in their plans.
“My focus has been on making sure that Boone County voters in quarantine have options. Over the weekend, we had two drive-through voting opportunities at our health department, and we served about 380 voters in that location,” she said. “We were not planning to do the weekend events, but we finalized that two weeks ago to make sure we have something available because we thought a very large number of voters were entering into quarantine or isolation and still needed to cast a ballot.”
Lennon and other election officials identified obstacles Missouri counties are facing ahead of the 2020 general election last week, including long lines at absentee voting offices, issues with Missouri’s expanded voting options, and inconsistent numbers of available poll workers.
The Secretary of State’s Office said it was not actively recording the number of poll workers participating in this election.