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Kansas Citians Set Records For Absentee And Mail-In Voting

Ken Stewart (left) notarizes a ballot on October 4, 2020. Ken Stewart said he became a notary after learning that mail-in ballots in Missouri need to be notarized.
Aviva Okeson-Haberman
Ken Stewart (left) notarizes a ballot on October 4, 2020. Ken Stewart said he became a notary after learning that mail-in ballots in Missouri need to be notarized.

Despite notary and ballot confusion, a skyrocketing number of Missouri voters are still opting to vote early and skip the polls this November.

With only 25 days until the November election, voters across the Kansas City metro are turning out in record numbers to send off their ballots early despite the added step of having their ballot notarized, a requirement the Missouri Supreme Court upheld today.

According to the Missouri Secretary of State, voters have already cast 181,000 mail-in and absentee ballots.

Local elections boards also say voters are taking advantage of these options as many choose to skip in-person voting during the coronavirus pandemic.

Kansas City, Missouri

When in-person absentee voting began last month, voters were lined up at the Kansas City Elections Board.

Shawn Kieffer, the Board's Republican director, says voting hasn't slowed down much since then, with more than 11,000 absentee ballots already cast and 17,000 more requested.

For the primary election we had a few months ago, we voted a total of 9,100 people absentee. So we've already surpassed that from the primary, and it's only two weeks into absentee voting," said Kieffer.

The pandemic is one of the main reasons for the spike in absentee votes, but Kieffer says there’s another contributing factor.

“I think people are very hyped up regarding all the news coverage that's been going on about the election and they want to make sure they get their ballot in and they get it in timely,” said Kieffer. “And I think that's what is spurring a lot of the increased traffic we're having.”

Kieffer says based on the response the board has received this year, he estimates they could see more than 40,000 mail-in and absentee votes by Election

Platte County, Missouri

The Platte County Board of Elections says it received its first request for an absentee ballot in February, and the demand has only gone up since.

The board’s director, Chris Hershey, says they’re already on track to surpass last year’s absentee number.

“We're up over 9,000 now. To give that context, in 2016 we voted 5,500 people absentee over the whole election season. So it definitely looks like we're going to pass that mark this time,” said Hershey.

To deal with the influx of early votes, Hershey says the board has hired a team of election judges. He says this is something the board usually does in a larger election year, but this time they brought them in for all six weeks of absentee voting rather than the last two.

“That's been a big asset because it's freed up the staff time to handle the deadline for registration, changes of address and mailing out ballots,” said Hershey.

He says the coronavirus crisis has been the main driver of absentee votes in his county, with the majority of requests citing the pandemic as their reason. By election day, he estimates the board will see between 10,000 and 15,000 votes.

Missouri Supreme Court notary decision

Missouri voters have the extra step of getting their ballots notarized, but apparently it has not dissuaded some of them.

The Missouri Supreme Court today denied a request that would allow mail-in voting without requiring those ballots to be notarized.

To vote absentee in Missouri, you’ll need to check off one of seven excuseslisted by the Missouri Secretary of State.

Two of those excuses do not require a notary, and voters will have to be either incapacitated or confined due to illness or physical disability or have contracted or be at risk for contracting COVID-19. The other five excuses need a notary.

The deadline is October 21 to apply for either an absentee or mail-in ballot. After that, voters can cast their ballot in-person absentee at their election office until November 2.

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