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Proposed state senate bill could allow Missourians to vote absentee without needing a reason

Absentee voting sign
Absentee voting sign(Source: WSFA)
Published: Dec. 8, 2020 at 6:56 PM CST
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GREENE COUNTY, Mo. (KY3) - A newly proposed bill in Missouri could change how absentee voting works in the state.

Last month there was a substantial amount of absentee ballots here in the Ozarks and across the county, likely tied to the pandemic. State Senate Bill 17 could actually increase absentee voting each year.

Right now in Missouri a person can vote absentee for candidates and ballot issues if they cannot make it to polls for specific reasons. This includes being out of town, or for a scheduled medical procedure.

Senate Bill 17 would allow voters to cast absentee ballots without an excuse or reason. November saw some of Ozark’s highest absentee turnouts in quite some time.

”More cast their vote in person than voted by mail but it was certainly record-setting by all measures in terms of the amount of people that voted prior to the day of the election,” Greene County Clerk Shane Schoeller said.

Twenty-percent of eligible voters in Greene County voted prior to election day. Such a high absentee turnout is significantly connected to the pandemic.

”I think in terms of making sure that voters could do what was in their best interest while the virus is still out there, it certainly did give them the flexibility they needed to make the best decision for themselves,” Schoeller said.

St. Louis state senator Jill Schupp proposed the bill in order to provide that same flexibility every election.

”Clearly it will provide additional flexibility because currently you have to have a reason,” Schoeller said. “Of course after the end of this year the seventh reason, the COVID-19 reason would go away.”

Though Schoeller said he and many other voters likely prefer to vote in person so they can see their ballots go into the machine, he said absentee voting could become especially helpful for people who may not qualify for reasons currently listed on a ballot.

“There’s first-responders who often times that have very long days of work that they don’t know how long the day is going to be when they start up their work day,” he said. “So it can be a challenge for them to be able to vote within that thirteen hour voting period. So there’s an example of someone who I think the flexibility would make sense for.”

If approved, Missouri would join 29 other states and the District of Columbia in allowing no-excuse absentee voting.

The 101st General Assembly will convene on January 6. Bills can be pre-filed as of December 1.

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