Plan Ahead To Make Your Vote Count!

For the last few years, I’ve practiced asking my friends and family if they were planning to vote and what that plan was. I was used to asking how they planned to vote on issues, though rarely about candidates. Before that I’d never really asked, “What time do you think you’ll head to the polls?” Then I learned that people are more likely to vote if they have a concrete plan and if they’ve shared that plan with someone else (Nickerson, 2010). So now I regularly ask people not just if they plan to vote – but when. My kids and I go after school every time, with a box of cookies in tow to share with the poll workers.

In 2020 in Missouri, that is even more important. In a time when voting should have been made more simple because of the COVID-19 global pandemic, count on our state to make it more complicated through Senate Bill 631 which was signed into law on June 4! In addition to our tried and true (and sadly, risky and less available) in person voting, we now have expanded absentee and mail-in voting options.

In an ideal world, it would simple:

  • request ballot
  • fill out ballot
  • return ballot.

In Missouri, we’re not quite there. If you don’t want to vote in person on Nov 3rd, here are some ways to make sure your voice is still counted:

In person absentee:
You can show up in person at your local election board or county clerk’s office and vote absentee. You can’t go until after Sept 22nd, and each office will have different hours – but this is a way to vote in person with lower risk (and hopefully a shorter wait) than voting on Nov 4th. And you still get that satisfying “I voted sticker” and booth experience! Plan to do this before Nov 2nd, the final day to cast an absentee ballot.

Note: To vote absentee, Missouri state law says you must have a qualifying excuse.  Check the Secretary of State’s website to see if you qualify.

Mail-in:
If you don’t want to go out at all – this year only (see SB 631 link above) you can elect to vote via a mail-in ballot. Request one ASAP, and return it quickly too. Mail-in ballots must be notarized (find a list of really wonderful community members who have volunteered to notarize ballots for free here), and as the name suggests – must be delivered via United States Postal Service (USPS) by Nov 3rd to count. Given challenges at the USPS, it is recommended that you put your ballot in the mail by Oct. 27th to be safe.

Mail-in absentee:
If you qualify for absentee, you may request a mail-in absentee ballot. For a lot of folks there isn’t much difference between a mail-in or a mail-in absentee, unless you’re a procrastinator or a late decider. Absentee ballots can be hand-delivered to your local election board office up to Nov 3rd.  Most of these ballots still must be notarized.

Mail-in absentee, COVID-related excuse:
There are a subset of  people who qualify as “high risk” who can receive mail-in ballots which do not need to be notarized. Folks with certain pre-existing conditions, who are immunocompromised, or who have diabetes, asthma, or liver disease (as well as some other conditions, find the whole list here). Just a reminder – because of HIPAA laws, the government cannot ask you (or a physician) to verify the reason you are high risk. You are simply self-identifying that way when requesting your ballot.

At Empower Missouri, we know that a healthy democracy is impossible without informed and active voters. We’ll be doing everything we can to get social-justice-minded voters to the polls on November 3, including:

  • Inviting you to opt in to a texting service whenever you register for our events or use our email templates. You’ll receive important calls to action, including reminders of deadlines related to elections.
  • Hosting a special September 17 webinar on Social Justice at the Ballot Box on November 3 at 1 p.m. See the great line-up of speakers and register here.

So – how will you vote this year?  I’ve already requested my mail-in ballot. The kids and I will still grab a box of cookies from a local bakery and pick up some handmade swag from Etsy. Of course, I’ll be voting No on 3. All that is left is to figure out how to stage the cutest selfie for social media….

In Solidarity,

Sarah Owsley
Policy and Organizing Manager

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