What voters in Missouri need to know about mail-in ballots

A little known requirement could make your mail-in ballot invalid
Posted at 5:33 AM, Aug 04, 2020
and last updated 2020-08-04 07:28:26-04

KANSAS CITY, Mo. — Voting during a pandemic creates concerns, the biggest one, being exposed to coronavirus.

But a local civil rights organization also has concerns about an option given to people to vote by mail and the requirement needed for that ballot to count.

Reminders to social distance and plastic barriers to prevent the spread of germs will greet voters on election day. For those who want to cast their ballot, but not in person, voting absentee or mail-in are the only other options in Missouri.

But to vote absentee, you have to meet one seven requirements.

Absentee voters must provide one of the following reasons for voting absentee:

  1. Absence on Election Day from the jurisdiction of the election authority in which such voter is registered to vote;
  2. Incapacity or confinement due to illness or physical disability, including a person who is primarily responsible for the physical care of a person who is incapacitated or confined due to illness or disability;
  3. Religious belief or practice;
  4. Employment as an election authority, as a member of an election authority, or by an election authority at a location other than such voter's polling place;
  5. Incarceration, provided all qualifications for voting are retained.
  6. Certified participation in the address confidentiality program established under sections 589.660 to 589.681 because of safety concerns.
  7. For an election that occurs during the year 2020, the voter has contracted or is in an at-risk category for contracting or transmitting severe acute respiratory syndrome coronavirus 2 (COVID-19).
Missouri Secretary of State website

If you don't, a mail-in ballot is your last choice. But many voters may not notice that their mail-ballot needs to be notarized - something that's not always free.

"We are seeing some notaries trying to charge a processing fee on the mail-in ballots. But it is still illegal to charge for an absentee ballot," said Tammy Brown with the Jackson County Election Board.

This reminder is also found on the Missouri Secretary of State's website. Senate Bill 631, which allows people to vote by mail because of coronavirus, does not make notarization of mail-in ballots free.

“The reasoning for having a notary requirement at all is to verify the person casting the vote is indeed who they are supposed to be and to keep integrity and security in our elections,” said bill sponsor Sen. Dan Hegeman. "Given that charging for notarizing an absentee ballot is prohibited by statute, and these ballots are virtually the same, I think any notary trying to charge for notarizing a mail-in ballot could potentially open themselves up for legal scrutiny."

Reverend Dr. Rodney Williams, President of the Kansas City, Missouri, branch of the NAACP, is concerned.

“The price of the notary, no matter how small or how large, can deter some people from going out to vote because there’s some people that won’t even have enough money to pay for a notary," Williams said.

Leading up to the august primary - the civil rights branch held free notarization events, and the Secretary of State's office provides a list of where you can get your ballot notarized for free.

A representative with the Secretary of State's office said if you can't get to one of the locations that offer free notarization, call them.

The KCMO local branch of NAACP said give them a call, too, if you can't find a free notary.


41 Action News is committed to providing comprehensive information on the 2020 primary and general elections with an emphasis on several key issues — the economy, the COVID-19 pandemic and race relations. Count on us to provide news and information to help you make an informed choice at the polls.