Errors causing volunteers to remind people how to cast their ballots
By MARY ANN O’TOOLE HOLLEY
Errors on St. Charles County absentee ballots could cause chaos on Election Day.
Bill Otto, the Labor-endorsed candidate for Missouri’s 70th state House District, and Democratic Election Judge Cheryl Hibbeler joined other volunteers Sunday, July 12 going door-to-door, placing stickers on doors reminding residents in St. Charles County of absentee voting rules.
“We want to make sure there is no confusion, especially with the older residents,” said Otto, a candidate for State Representative 70th District.
Missouri voters should have options that include COVID-19 concerns for voting absentee in the Aug. 4 primary and the Nov. 3 general election. Applications for both absentee and mail-in ballots must be submitted by Wednesday, July 22.
PROBLEMS WITH ABSENTEE BALLOTS
The option to vote absentee if you have COVID-19 concerns is missing among the reasons for voting absentee on the St. Charles County absentee ballot for Aug. 4.
“There’s was supposed to be a number 7, a new checkbox for using absentee ballots for certain individuals that might be more susceptible to getting COVID-19 or, if they do get COVID-19, have a more drastic case of it,” said Hibbeler. “For some reason, it’s not on the St. Charles County ballot.”
Some absentee ballots neglected to include the residents’ voter identification number that is usually printed on the ballot, although the ballot envelope includes a space at the top to fill in a “Voter ID number.” There is also an error on the return envelope that omits the requirement for notarization.
Voters who called the Election Commission to inquire, reported that they were advised the “Voter ID” number is for administrative purposes and that voters are not required to complete the voter ID part of the form. Yet no such explanation is provided on the envelope, leading some voters to believe they must complete this and may reasonably believe it relates to voter identification requirements to vote.
“Given that voters are instructed that they are required by law to complete the form on the envelope – and given St. Charles County’s particular history of misinformation related to voter identification requirements to vote, such a provision is confusing at best,” said Hibbeler.
Accordingly, the Voters Coalition asked that the Election Commission add language clarifying that the “voter ID number” is for administrative purposes only and instructing voters that they DO NOT need to provide any information with respect to that provision.
The Missouri Voter Protection Coalition and non-partisan Election Protection hotline has received a number of complaints from voters in St. Charles County regarding the absentee ballot envelope they recently received with their absentee ballots for the August elections.
The Missouri legislature passed a bill adding the COVID-19 reason to the list of permissible reasons to vote absentee in May.
Voters are required to indicate the basis for voting absentee on the ballot envelope. Yet, the St. Charles County ballot envelope provides no listing for it and provides nowhere for voters who meet its provisions to so indicate that basis for their absentee ballot.
The MVPC expressly requested that the ballot envelope be updated by the county.
County election officials said new ballot envelopes had been ordered, but that the county had not received them yet.
“Absentee voting for the August primaries did not begin until June 23, 2020 – five weeks after the passage of the legislation, and almost three weeks after the measure was signed into law – ample time to update the ballot envelope before sending them to voters,” Lieberman said.
The Voter Protection Coalition has asked the St. Charles County Election Commission to correct the ballot envelopes and to do the following:
- Contact all voters who received the improper envelope and advise them that they may cast absentee ballots, and send those voters new ballot envelopes.
- Advise voters who received the improper envelope that they may handwrite or affix a note to that envelope that they are casting their ballot pursuant to “Excuse 7,” or “at-risk for COVID.”
- Include the same notices prominently on the County Election Commission webpage related to absentee voting.
- Ensure that every absentee ballot envelope sent to voters going forward includes the reason, even if it is a sticker affixed to the existing envelope.
- Confirm that the County will not reject any absentee ballot that is otherwise complete solely because it is submitted in the outdated envelope.