Tuesday marks National Voting Registration Day and start to absentee voting

Published: Sep. 22, 2020 at 5:26 PM CDT
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On the the 100th anniversary year of women getting the right to vote, state and local officials held a news conference outside Greene County’s Election Center to encourage people to exercise a freedom most of us take for granted.

“Voting is a sacred right," said Springfield Mayor Ken McClure.

“Every voice matters,” added Rev. Jenn Simmons from the National Avenue Christian Church and member of the Missouri Faith Voices, a group that encourages the public to register to vote.“So we come together to celebrate our democracy that every person has a right and responsibility and an opportunity to make our voices heard.”

At the same time the news conference was going on outside the election center, inside the central Springfield building a steady stream of mostly senior citizens were making their voices heard by voting on the first day of absentee balloting.

While much has been made on the chaos expected nationally on election day from mail-in ballot problems to lawsuits to results possibly not known for days, Greene County Clerk Shane Schoeller said that unless there are equipment malfunctions locally on election night he predicts state results will not drag on for days.

“Results are going to be reported on the night of the election," he said. "Missouri voters are going to go to bed and know who their next governor is as well as who they elected president.”

Voters have various options this November including in-person, absentee or mail-in voting and there’s even statewide curbside voting.

“The law states it’s for someone with a disability. However we don’t question anyone when they come up and request to vote curbside," Schoeller said. "We have signs (outside) that have a phone number and a phone inside that responds to that when they come up to vote.”

As for mail-in voting, the postal service is suggesting voters mail-in their ballots 6-7 days in advance but Secretary of State Jay Ashcroft suggests an earlier cut-off date.

“We are encouraging every Missourian that is going to be mailing a ballot back to leave at least two weeks," he said. "I push for in-person voting. Why? Because that is the best way to make sure your vote counts. You’re not relying on signature match, you’re not relying on making sure you got the notarization if you needed to. You’re not relying on the post office. If you put extraneous markings on the ballot that confused the scanner or voted for two people for one office, when they try to run it through the scanner and it doesn’t read it correctly you get a second chance.”

And for people who may be weary of in-person voting because of long lines?

“The lines may appear long because people are six-feet apart but we actually expect to have fewer people waiting than we have in times past," Ashcroft said.

The bottom line in choosing which way you should vote?

“Use the means that fits you the best," Mayor McClure said.

There was one other interesting note from the news conference. Officials said that while masks are recommended and even required in some places like Springfield, those not wearing one will not be turned away.

“The right to vote supersedes the mask," Schoeller explained. "Even if someone sits in Springfield and doesn’t have their mask, someone is welcome to call local law enforcement but that person will be afforded the right to vote even if it’s addressed later by law enforcement. It’s a constitutional right that’s protected.”

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