ST. LOUIS COUNTY, Mo. – Election day 2020 brings about new challenges with COVID-19 and quarantine rules. Cities and counties are finding different ways to battle the concept of making sure every voter has a chance to vote, even if they are quarantined.
According to Missouri law, “If, after 5:00 p.m. on the second Wednesday before an election, any voter from the jurisdiction has become hospitalized, becomes confined due to illness or injury, or is confined in an intermediate care facility, residential care facility, or skilled nursing facility, as such terms are defined in section 198.006, in the county in which the jurisdiction is located or in the jurisdiction of an adjacent election authority within the same county, the election authority shall appoint a team to deliver, witness the signing of and return the voter’s application and deliver, witness the voting of and return the voter’s absentee ballot.”
This means if a voter is confined due to illness or injury, and it is too late to request a mail-in absentee ballot (the deadline was Tuesday, Oct. 21), then election officials shall deliver a ballot to the voter if they request it.
St. Louis County said they have a designated hospital team that delivers ballots to hospitals on election day. But home delivery, due to a COVID-19 quarantine, is a new hurdle. And many election officials say it is time-consuming and takes a lot of manpower.
St. Louis County has a team that has started delivering ballots to people’s homes. Quarantined voters can call St. Louis County’s Election Board, schedule a time for them to drop off a ballot at their front door, fill out the ballot and then call when you are done. Election workers will pick up the ballots and return them to the election office.
So far, about 50 voters have used this service in the county. But the closer voters get to election day, the harder it may be to get everyone scheduled. St. Louis County’s Democratic Director of Elections Eric Fey said they will do their best to make sure every quarantined voter who requests this service gets it done, but it will be tough on election day.
“Election day is very hectic and very busy, we’re not always able to get to all the folks who might request it at the last minute,” Fey said. “We’ll try to get to as many people as we can on the last day.”
In St. Charles County, they have 38 voters on the list to receive their ballots at home because of quarantine. St. Charles County Election Board is working with their health department to deliver their ballots to homes starting Thursday, dressed in PPE. St. Charles County’s Director of Elections Kurt Bahr said they will drop ballots off at quarantined voter’s homes until the day before election day, Monday, November 2. But if a St. Charles County voter gets a positive COVID-19 test on election day, they are out of luck.
Bahr said based on the August election, when they also provided this service, it takes about 30 minutes per home, which means one team could only get to 16 quarantined voter’s homes in a day.
St. Charles County and St. Louis City are both working on a plan for their hospital teams to collect ballots in the hospital on election day.
St. Louis City Democratic Election Director Ben Borgmeyer said they have been receiving a lot of calls from politicians asking how they plan to deal with quarantined voters. He said they are working on a plan and want to have it finalized by Friday. But he is asking anyone in this predicament so far, to call the election commission so they can gauge how many people need the service.
“We’re trying to generate a plan to deal with this issue, so we’re trying to figure out the scope of the problem, so if there is a voter out there in that predicament, we’re asking that voter to call us to plan how we are going to meet that challenge,” he said.