JEFFERSON CITY, Mo. – The Missouri Secretary of State is urging voters who are using mail-in and absentee ballots to send back their completed ballots as soon as possible.
Voters have rushed out and requested their mail-in ballot but there are some mistakes voters are making that are keeping their votes from counting.
Thousands of ballots were not counted for during the August primary election and Missouri Secretary of State Jay Ashcroft said there are even more voters who are registered for November’s election. Ashcroft said more than a fifth of them have already voted.
“What we saw in August would compete with any normal presidential general election,” Ashcroft said. “We are substantially above that.”
According to the secretary of state’s office, there are more than 4.3 million voters registered in Missouri.
“We can safely say that 15% to 20% of the people that will be voting have already voted,” Ashcroft said.
Due to the pandemic, Missouri is offering absentee and mail-in voting this year. Nearly 5,000 ballots were not counted for during the August primary. That’s less than 1% of all votes there were cast.
Ashcroft’s office said as of Tuesday, 596,759 mail-in and absentee ballots have been sent across the state. Over 539,800 were absentee ballots while 56,896 were mail-in, compared to the 305,000 requested in 2016. Local authorities have already received 423,995 of those ballots back.
“We see things as simple as you send back your ballot envelope, but you forgot to put your ballot in it,” Ashcroft said.
Of those nearly 5,000 uncounted ballots, the two main reasons they were rejected is because the ballot envelope was not signed, and the ballot was received too late.
Although the period to request an absentee or mail-in ballot closed Wednesday, now it’s about returning them.
“If you have one of those ballots and you’re intending on mailing it back, mail it back now,” Ashcroft said. “Some of our election authorities have actually set up the ability to know or to track their absentee ballot.”
Absentee ballots can be returned in-person, but mail-in ballots cannot.
“If you take a mail-in ballot, you’re not allowed to return it by hand. You must return it by mail,” Ashcroft said. “If you return it by hand, you would have to ask the election authority to spoil it, which I believe they will, then they will have to give you a new ballot for you to fill out on election day.”
A Missouri appeals court stayed a court ruling Thursday that mail-in ballots must be returned by mail. A St. Louis nonprofit group, the Organization for Black Struggle, filed a federal lawsuit against Missouri’s mail-in ballot restrictions.
“I don’t think it’s right in the midst of voting to change the rules,” Ashcroft said. “When it comes to the administration of the election, we need to decide what those rules are and then whatever they are, they have to apply to everyone. I think there will be a discussion next year in the legislature about what we want to change, what worked well and what didn’t work well.”
The Organization for Black Struggle responded to the ruling Thursday by saying they are “outraged at the recent ruling of the 8th Circuit Court of Appeals.”
It was not surprising that Missouri Attorney General Eric Schmitt would argue against making voting easier. This is consistent with the party line of the Republicans who continue to make voting partisan. Schmitt claimed that changing the rules for mail-in voting after it has already started would confuse voters.ORGANIZATION FOR BLACK STRUGGLE
“Voters are already confused,” said Jamala Rogers, the group’s executive director. “OBS has had many calls asking for clarity of mail-in votes. The Trump administration has sabotaged the US Postal Service to the point where many voters are fearful that their ballots will not be counted. We can’t give them any guarantees.”
The group vows to continue their efforts to fight all forms of voter suppression in concert with others committed to upholding voting right.
In order for mail-in and absentee ballots to count, they have to be returned to your local election authority by 7 p.m. on election day. Voters do have the ability to surrender their mail-in or absentee ballots at the polls and vote in person if they want. Ashcroft said he hopes to have unofficial results election night.
Ashcroft is up for reelection in November. His opponent, Yinka Faleti, also released a statement.
“When Jay Ashcroft wins, the people of Missouri lose,” Faleti said. “There is no justification for the secretary of state to be fighting this hard to make it more difficult for Missourians to return their ballots. It is clear that he has only his personal partisan motives in mind and cares nothing about performing his duty as our state’s chief elections officer.”