In the middle of a pandemic, the so-called leaders who are supposed to guide us through this deadly virus – one that is disproportionately infecting and killing Black Americans, capitalizing on years of systemic inequalities – are spending their time trying to lock up kids, attacking Black prosecutors, and making it harder, and more dangerous, to vote. You’ve been told this over and over, but it bears repeating. This November 3, the stakes could not be higher.
It’s everyone’s right to safely cast their ballot. It’s unbelievable that this is a position some consider controversial. If they truly believed in that value, as they claim, Secretary of State Jay Ashcroft, Governor Mike Parson, and the super majorities in the Missouri House and Senate would have made vote-by-mail easily accessible and it wouldn’t take a flow-chart to figure out how to legally vote. But here we are.
The new vote-by-mail laws are ineffective. Currently, the law requires many voters to get their absentee or mail-in ballots notarized. Not only is it already hard enough to find a notary willing to notarize your ballot for free, but some banks and other places that offer notarizations are also requiring you to schedule an appointment, because of the fear of spreading the coronavirus. This is just another hoop to jump through that politicians think will keep you from exercising your constitutional right to vote.
But there is another option. Instead of choosing to vote-by-mail, request an absentee ballot instead. Voting absentee can be done in-person by dropping your ballot at your election authority’s office or through the mail. It’s the safest and most secure way to vote during the COVID-19 pandemic.
We’ve heard and seen that President Trump is attacking our right to vote by working to slow the United States Postal Service, so it’s best to request your absentee ballot now. When you request your ballot, choose the second option if you are sick or worried you may contract COVID-19 (Confinement due to illness) or the last option if you’re at risk for getting COVID-19, including by being over 65 or immunocompromised. Critically, these options don’t require a notary like the other options.
Once you receive your ballot, fill it out as soon as you can. If you want to mail your ballot in, try to make sure it’s in the mail no later than October 20. With the attacks on the USPS, there’s no guarantee it’ll be received in time if you send it later than that.
If you don’t receive your ballot in time or you can’t send it by October 20, fill it out, hold on to it, and walk your ballot into your local election authority before 7 p.m. on November 3.
If you are unable to request an absentee ballot, you’re allowed to go to your local election authority and simultaneously request and cast it then and there. Voting absentee in-person helps keep long lines and crowding down on November 3 and is the safest way to vote in person. In-person absentee voting is available at your local election authority from September 22 through November 2. Make sure you wear a mask to help protect yourself and your community.
We can’t sit back while politicians rig the system. Your vote is your voice. This November, make sure we’re heard loud and clear that voter suppression, that bigotry and intolerance, that the attacks on Black elected officials are no longer welcome in Missouri.
Clem Smith is Missouri Democratic Party acting chair.