Last week, Missouri Secretary of State Jay Ashcroft traveled the state to discuss election-law changes brought about by Senate Bill 631, which created a COVID-related option to vote by absentee ballot and offers every registered voter an opportunity to vote by mail-in ballot with notarization.

Missouri’s next election is the Aug. 4 primary, which is less than three weeks away.

In-person voting remains a secure option to cast a ballot.

“I want to assure Missouri voters that their local election authorities (LEAs) are taking many precautions to make voting in person safe and secure,” Ashcroft said. “My office has distributed $4.5 million in federal and state funds and provided them with sanitizer, floor-distancing strips, facemasks, face shields and other items to assist with creating a safe voting environment. Voting in person is the most secure way to cast a ballot.”

On the Aug. 4 election, voters may cast their ballots at their respective polling places.

Ashcroft said curbside voting also is available; in Webster County, contact County Clerk Stan Whitehurst at 417-859-VOTE (8683) for more information. Local election officials are preparing polling places to provide space between voters and poll workers, as well as providing other safeguards, like hand sanitizer, facemasks and face shields for poll workers.

Voting by absentee has been available for more than 30 years. Until recently, six excuses existed to obtain an absentee ballot, all but one of which require a notary.

If you are incapacitated or confined due to illness, you are not required to have your ballot envelope notarized.

If you are voting absentee due to any of the other reasons, including religious beliefs or practice, working as an election worker, incarcerated but still eligible to vote, being absent from your election jurisdiction on election day or being a certified participant in an address confidentiality program, you are required to have your ballot envelope notarized.

SB 631 created another justification to vote by absentee ballot.

The new, seventh option allows voters to be eligible if they have coronavirus or are at risk because they fall into any of the following categories:

• Are age 65 or older.

• Live in a long-term care facility.

• Have chronic lung disease or moderate to severe asthma.

• Have serious heart conditions.

• Are immuno compromised.

• Have diabetes.

• Have chronic kidney disease and are undergoing dialysis.

• Have liver disease.

Under this exemption, you are not required to have your ballot notarized.

Absentee ballots may be requested in person, by mail, facsimile or e-mail. An in-person request may be made up until the day before the election and the ballot completed in the office of the election official; other methods of request must be made by next Wednesday, July 22.

Absentee ballots may be returned to the local election authority in person or by mail. Absentee ballots must be received in the election office by the close of the election,

which is 7 p.m. on Tuesday, Aug. 4.

SB 631 created a mail-in ballot option available to all registered voters. This is a temporary option available in 2020 due to COVID-19.

Any registered voter may request a mail-in ballot in person or by mail.

Requests must be made by July 22.

The ballot envelope, per state law, must be notarized.

Additionally, state law requires mail-in ballots to be delivered to the local election authority by U.S. mail only. Ballots must be received in the local election authority’s office by the close of the election, 7 p.m. on Tuesday, Aug. 4.

Several voting options require a ballot envelope to be notarized. A notary public provides this service. Notarization helps to assure that the person who requested the ballot is the same person who is submitting it.

State law forbids notaries from charging a fee to notarize an absentee ballot. However, SB 631 did not forbid notaries from charging to notarize a mail-in ballot. As a result, Ashcroft’s office is compiling a list of organizations and individuals who are volunteering to provide both services free of charge.

A list of volunteer notaries can be found online at www.sos.mo.gov/elections/mailinnotary.

Free notary service for Webster County ballots also is offered at the Webster County Citizen office through Aug. 4 by Anna Strudefant. Just stop by the office on the west side of the Seymour square or call 417-935-2257.

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