Louise Wilkerson

Missouri’s new absentee and mail-in ballot rules are confusing. I believe that allowing notaries to charge voters to notarize a mail-in ballot is a poll tax. The League of Women Voters of Metro St. Louis is fighting to make sure voters can cast their ballots safely and at no cost in the 2020 elections.

While state law blocks notaries from charging a fee to notarize an absentee ballot, they can charge to notarize the new mail-in ballot legislators approved for voters concerned about COVID-19. The Missouri League and NAACP are appealing a decision last week in our absentee ballot lawsuit that said the notarization requirement would not cause “irreparable harm.” We believe that not counting ballots that aren’t properly notarized or arrive late does harm our democracy.

The new law waives the notary requirement for absentee ballots requested by voters over 65, living in a long-term care facility, or with one of the health issues the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention says puts a person at higher risk of COVID-19. Starting on July 23, those voters can vote in person at the St. Louis City Board of Elections at 300 North Tucker or one of St. Louis County’s satellite voting sites (Recreational Complex on Redman Road in North County, St. Louis County Library Mid-County Branch at 7821 Maryland Ave. in Clayton, 71 Clarkson Wilson Center, or Keller Plaza on South Lemay Ferry Road).

New mail-in ballots authorized in 2020 must be notarized and can only be returned by U.S. mail. Election officials say voters should allow up to 10 business days for mail service, which means mailing them by July 20 to arrive by 7 p.m. on Election Day.

St. Louis County election data shows almost 73,000 absentee ballots were requested for the municipal elections, with 65% returned and 6% rejected. Almost one-third of the rejected ballots weren’t notarized. Another 1,249 ballots weren’t counted since they came in after 7 p.m. on June 2. 

Since many Missouri voters want to vote by mail but don’t know how to find a notary, the League is offering free notary services in its office at 8706 Manchester Rd. in Brentwood. Hours are from 9:30 a.m. to 3:30 p.m. Monday through Friday and 10 a.m. to noon the next two Saturdays. The League is part of the Missouri Voter Protection Coalition that is creating a statewide notary hub. Several libraries are also offering notary services: Weber Road, Natural Bridge, Lewis & Clark, and Headquarters in St. Louis County; Baden, Barr, Carpenter, Central, Divall, Julia Davis, and Walnut Park in St. Louis City. 

I encourage voters to research the candidates and ballot measures online at VOTE411.org. Other election information is available at lwvstl.org

Louise Wilkerson is co-president of the League of Women Voters of Metro St. Louis.

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