Submitted by Brianna Lennon, county clerk and election authority for Boone County, and Shane Schoeller, county clerk and election authority for Greene County.
In any other presidential election year, county clerks would be inundated with the fruits of voter registration drives across college campuses, but this year — as COVID-19 throws a wrench into the best-laid plans of 2020 — students are finding new ways to encourage others to get involved in the upcoming election. Students are registering to vote online, using social media to educate their peers and navigating the voting options available to them in Missouri. As local election authorities, we both remember well our first votes cast in a presidential election and we know how important it is that every voter has the tools they need to make their voice heard.
Registering to vote
With midterms fast approaching and Zoom meetings filling up the calendar, now is the time to check your voter registration or register to vote for the first time. The deadline for registering is Oct. 7 in Missouri so it’s important not to procrastinate. If you plan to register at your campus address, visit GoVoteMissouri.com to complete your voter registration online or check out vote.gov if you’re registered in your home state. If you choose to register at your campus address, your new registration will cancel out any previous registration in another county and gives you more options for casting your ballot in the Nov. 3 election. Not only will you have the opportunity to vote at your polling place, but you’ll also be able to vote absentee in person in your county clerk’s office if you may not be in town on Nov. 3, or if you’ve had COVID-19 or are at risk for contracting or transmitting it. The absentee voting period begins on Sept. 22.
No less important once you’re registered is being sure you exercise your right to vote. If you plan to vote in Missouri, you have three options available for casting a ballot. First, you can request an absentee ballot or a mail-in ballot and vote by mail. Absentee voting is available to eligible voters that will be out of town on Election Day, are incapacitated or confined due to illness, or have contracted COVID-19 or are at risk for contracting or transmitting it. Mail-in ballots are available to any voter that wishes to vote by mail in 2020. There are different instructions to follow for absentee and mail-in ballots, but the simplest way to apply for either is to download an application from the Secretary of State’s website at sos.mo.gov/CMSImages/ElectionGoVoteMissouri/2020FillableBallotApplication-GeneralElection.pdf and send your completed form to your local county clerk. If you choose to vote by mail-in ballot or an absentee ballot because you’ll be out of town, you’ll also need to get your ballot notarized for it to count. You can go to your county clerk’s office, local library or check out the list of available notaries at https://sos.mo.gov/elections/MailinNotary to ensure you’ve fully filled out your ballot envelope. Once complete, mail-in ballots must be returned to the clerk’s office by mail, but absentee ballots can be mailed or dropped off at the office in person by the voter or a close relative.
A second option is to vote absentee in person in your county clerk’s office. From Sept. 22 through Nov. 2, county clerk offices are open for voters to apply in person, receive their absentee ballot and cast it the same day. If you are concerned about finding a notary, relying on the post office, or just prefer an in-person voting experience, this option will work for you.
Finally, polling places are always open on Nov. 3 so that you can vote on Election Day in person if you prefer. You can look up your polling place on the Secretary of State’s website at https://voteroutreach.sos.mo.gov/PRD/VoterOutreach/VOSearch.aspx.
We’re expecting college students — and all voters — to show up in force for the November election. We want every eligible voter to have the opportunity to cast a ballot and that means that we need to prepare for record-breaking turnout. County clerks across Missouri are recruiting election judges to staff the polls on Election Day and, as a registered voter, you can help. Election judges run our polling places, assist voters and ensure the integrity of the election itself. They are paid positions and, most importantly, they let you participate in one of the fundamental components of a democratic republic: elections administration.
However you choose to participate, we want you to know that local election authorities are here to answer any and all questions that you have. In an era of seemingly unparalleled disagreement between Democrats and Republicans, as election authorities from both parties, we have and will continue to work together to protect your right to vote. We encourage you to reach out to your local county clerk or elections board to learn what’s on your ballot, sign up to be a poll worker, explore your options for exercising your right to vote this fall and be sure to include #Vote2020 in all your social media posts between now and November.