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Missouri Governor Signs Bill Making Absentee Voting Easier For Some In Pandemic

Some Missouri election officials want lawmakers to change state law making it clear that voters can request an absentee ballot during a pandemic.
Some Missouri election officials want lawmakers to change state law making it clear that voters can request an absentee ballot during a pandemic.

Some local elections officials have urged Gov. Mike Parson to authorize no-reason absentee voting in all elections. Like President Donald Trump, Parson said this would lead to voter fraud.

Missouri Gov. Mike Parson on Thursday signed legislation allowing people at higher risk of contracting the coronavirus to vote absentee without needing an additional notarized statement. 

“Any Missourian affected by COVID-19 should still be able to vote, including those who are sick or considered at-risk,” Parson said in a statement. “I applaud Senator Dan Hegeman, Representative Dan Shaul, and the rest of the legislature for taking this important step, which provides Missourians with a safe and secure way to vote while still safeguarding our elections and ballot process.”

Currently, state law requires those who want an absentee ballot to fill out an application, and then have a notary or a witness sign the ballot. For the August and November elections, voters over the age of 65, or those with serious health conditions, will not need that notarization. People who are concerned about contracting the coronavirus, but don’t fall into the above categories, can request an absentee ballot, but the notarization requirement remains in place.

These provisions expire at the end of the year according to the bill language. 

Some local elections officials pushed Parson to go further by authorizing no-reason absentee voting in all elections. The governor, mimicking President Donald Trump, said this would lead to voter fraud.

“What we are against, and what President Trump is against, is voting absentee without a reason and without a signature verification,” said Parson. “That is a nonsecure way to handle voting absentee, as is ballot harvesting.” 

In a statement, the Missouri Democratic Party called Parson’s action “too little, too late.”

“The governor should have stepped up to protect Missourians’ right to vote before Tuesday’s low turnout local elections and he should have backed no-excuse absentee voting,” the statement read. “Instead, Parson today peddled the same baseless lies to justify voter suppression in the midst of a pandemic. 

Secretary of State Jay Ashcroft, whose office oversees elections, could not immediately be reached for comment Thursday. Follow Jaclyn on Twitter: @DriscollNPR

Jaclyn Driscoll is the Jefferson City statehouse reporter for St. Louis Public Radio. She joined the politics team in 2019 after spending two years at the Springfield, Illinois NPR affiliate. Jaclyn covered a variety of issues at the statehouse for all of Illinois' public radio stations, but focused primarily on public health and agriculture related policy. Before joining public radio, Jaclyn reported for a couple television stations in Illinois and Iowa as a general assignment reporter.
Rachel Lippmann
Lippmann returned to her native St. Louis after spending two years covering state government in Lansing, Michigan. She earned her undergraduate degree from Northwestern University and followed (though not directly) in Maria Altman's footsteps in Springfield, also earning her graduate degree in public affairs reporting. She's also done reporting stints in Detroit, Michigan and Austin, Texas. Rachel likes to fill her free time with good books, good friends, good food, and good baseball.
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