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Missouri voting laws among nation’s most restrictive

Looking ahead to the Missouri primary
Posted at 1:26 PM, Aug 31, 2020
and last updated 2020-08-31 19:58:44-04

KANSAS CITY, Mo. — Missouri is one of the hardest states in the country in which to vote based on the laws regarding your ballot, according to an interactive map put together by NBC News.

There are only two states in the U.S. — Missouri and Mississippi — that severely restrict mail-in voting, do not allow advance voting for all registered voters and don’t allow voters to track mailed-in ballots.

Missouri also doesn’t allow voters to register and vote on the same day.

RELATED | Missouri voters with COVID-19 risk factors should vote absentee, not mail-in

With respect to mail-in ballots, Missouri is one of the most-restrictive states in the U.S.

Six states, including Mississippi, don’t allow any mail-in ballots, while nine others have carved out exceptions due to the coronavirus pandemic.

That includes Missouri, but Senate Bill 631, which was signed into law in June, only makes mail-in balloting legal through the end of the year. Effective Jan. 1, 2021, the state’s mail-in voting provision will expire unless the legislature takes action.

Every registered voter in Missouri is eligible to request a mail-in ballot for November’s election, but even that option comes with significant restrictions:

  • Every mail-in ballot must be returned in the envelope provided;
  • Mail-in ballots must be notarized;
  • Mail-in ballots must be received, by mail only, at your local election board by 7 p.m. on election day.

While Missouri approved mail-in balloting amid the COVID-19 pandemic, it’s one of only two states to do so — along with Alabama — that requires those mail-in ballots to be signed by a notary.

The rules are different for absentee ballots, which don’t require notarization in some circumstances and can be cast in-person ahead of Nov. 3 at local elections offices.

Anyone in an at-risk group for COVID-19 complications, including all registered voters over age 65, are eligible to vote absentee without having to get their ballot notarized for the upcoming election.

Two states — Connecticut and New Hampshire — don’t allow advance voting of any kind and 16 other states, including Missouri, require voters to have a legislature-approved excuse to vote before election day.

Technically, Oregon doesn't have advance voting either, because all elections in the state are conducted by mail only.

The other 31 states permit all registered voters to cast a ballot ahead of time.

Kansas allows advance in-person voting up to 20 days before elections, so voters should be able to cast ballots in-person for the November general election at local election offices beginning Wednesday, Oct. 14, until noon on Nov. 2.

Missouri is among nine states that don’t have a system to allow voters to track their ballot.

That’s of particular concern this year for some voters, who worry that the politicization of the U.S. Postal Service could jeopardize timely delivery of some ballots.

Kansas’ ballot tracker is available through the Secretary of State’s office.

Both Missouri and Kansas are among 28 states that do allow same-day voter registration.

The deadline to register to vote in Missouri is Oct. 7, which is the fourth Wednesday before November’s general election.

The deadline to register to vote in Kansas is Oct. 13 for the Nov. 3 election.

Beginning Sept. 22, local election offices in Missouri will begin allowing in-person advance absentee voting, if you meet one of seven criteria:

  • Will be out of town on election day;
  • Incapacity or confinement due to illness or disability;
  • Religious beliefs or practice;
  • Employment as a poll worker;
  • Incarceration without loss of voting rights;
  • Participation in the Witness Protection Program;
  • Contracted or in an at-risk category for COVID-19 complications.

Absentee ballots, like mail-in ballots, must be notarized except for those homebound due to illness/disability or those in an at-risk category for coronavirus complications.

JaxCo voting mail-in or absentee
The Jackson County Election Board is offering additional details on how residents can request either an absentee or mail-in ballot and who qualifies for either option.

They do not have to be notarized if you cast an in-person absentee ballot at your local election office.

Missouri’s absentee ballot request form is available online and can be mailed or returned in person at your local election office.

Find your local Missouri election office:

Editor's note: The original version of this story noted that Oregon doesn't have advance voting, but the story was clarified to note that all elections in Oregon are by mail.

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