Although precautions to slow the spread of COVID-19 are now part of our daily lives, Dent County voters can expect to see some related changes when they go to the polls to vote in the rescheduled June 2 election.
Some of the supplies needed–including masks, sanitizer and face shields—were dropped off personally by Secretary of State Jay Ashcroft at the courthouse Monday afternoon as he spent the day visiting election authorities in 12 area counties.
County Clerk Angie Curley said absentee voting, with an accepted excuse, is already underway for the June election, which was originally scheduled for April 7. Come election day, curbside voting will be offered for those who are disabled.
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Inside the eight Dent County polling places, voters can expect to see some election judges wearing masks when they present their IDs and sign in on an electronic Apple polling pad.
“We’ll have the sneeze guards up at the tables and some placement mats to encourage voters to stand six feet apart,” Curley said. “And we’ll have posters to encourage voters to practice social distancing.”
Masks will be available to judges who want to wear them. The masks are recommended but not required statewide.
“We will have sanitation wipes. We will be wiping down voter booths,” Curley said. “We’ll also have disposable stylus/pens that voters will be handed when they check in. They can sign the poll pad with the stylus end, and they can vote with the pen and take it home with them.”
The supplies are funded in part by a $20,000 CARES Act grant Curley obtained through the Secretary of State’s Office. The grant also covers disinfectant sprays, lens wipes for poll pads, sanitizers to wipe down the poll booths and the disposable stylus pens.
Dent County voting locations are the Dent County Fire Protection District firehouse and old city hall in Salem, all four rural schools, a church at Boss and the Bunker city hall.
Curley said the Missouri Association of County Clerks and Election Authorities is trying to convince legislators to pass measures that would help protect voters, election judges and the integrity of elections.
They’d like the authority to petition Missouri courts to request an absentee ballot be cast with a statewide declared state of emergency as the reason. It would not require a notarization.
Also being sought are measures allowing for drop-off boxes for voters to submit their absentee ballots outside the courthouse.
“We’d also like to see a mailed-in ballot, if it’s received by the Friday after the election, to count if it’s postmarked by election day,” she said.
For now, county clerks are waiting to see how legislative action taken this spring will affect voting in the August primary and November general election. On the last day of the session, a measure passed to allow mail-in ballots, pending the governor’s signature, for the August and November elections only.
Excuses include illness and travel away from home on election day. Voters can claim illness if they are 65 or older or live in a nursing home. Other qualifying conditions include chronic lung disease, moderate to severe asthma, kidney disease, liver disease, heart conditions, diabetes, and compromised immune systems, according to published reports. Other voters can use the mail-in option, but must have their ballot notarized.
The pandemic has affected some Missouri counties more than others, Curley said.
“When the election got moved from April to June, we found it was challenging for other counties to find polling locations, and find enough poll workers due to COVID-19,” Curley said. “We’re in a small community here. I was pretty fortunate that we had all our poll workers ready to go. All of our polling places were open and ready to go.”
A few poll workers had to cancel due to other commitments but have been replaced with backups. Anyone interested in becoming a poll worker should call Curley at 729-4144 or stop by the County Clerk's office.
“Along with our veteran poll workers, several teachers will be working this June 2 election since school is out,” she said.
The goal this year is to find enough poll workers, make sure everybody stays safe and that judges and voters are protected.
“It’s been challenging, but I feel confident we’re going to get through this and take it one day at a time,” Curley said.