Published June 15th, 2020 at 11:00 AM
If you wonder what voting will be like during a pandemic, you’re in good company.
One Kansas Citian is also thinking about the upcoming election. She had this question for curiousKC: “I am concerned about voting in the November election. Can we vote by mail?”
The short answer is yes. But let’s get into the nitty gritty.
The Kansas City metropolitan area includes counties in Kansas and Missouri, so we decided to come up with a voters guide that provides context, includes a few explainers and important dates to know as the voting day gets closer.
Voters on both sides of the state line can send in their vote by mail. However, Missouri requires advance ballots to be notarized — in person.
On June 4, Gov. Mike Parson signed Senate Bill 632, which allows residents to vote using an absentee ballot, “if the voter has contracted or is in an at-risk category for contracting or transmitting severe acute respiratory syndrome coronavirus 2, as defined in the act.”
The bill expires on Dec. 31.
However, there are permanent exclusions. People who are able to waive the notary requirement, in addition to those who may have COVID-19 or are at risk of contracting the virus, include people with a disability or are permanent caretakers. They can send in mail-in ballots and forgo the notarized signature.
The rest must have a “specified reason,” according to a release.
“It’s challenging, here in Missouri. The new law is needlessly complicated,” said Denise Lieberman, a voting rights attorney and general counsel at the Missouri Voter Protection Coalition. To ease complications, the coalition is creating a notary hub to connect folks who are already notaries and people who wish to become notaries, which can be found here.
Lieberman is part of a recently filed lawsuit that petitions for voters to be able to cast their ballots without a notary. She says this puts people at risk during the 2020 pandemic.
“If it’s not safe to go to the polls where you’re in close proximity with lots of people, (so) it’s also not safe to go to a notary,” Lieberman added.
The lawsuit is currently pending before the Missouri Supreme Court. A live-stream of oral arguments is scheduled for June 15 at 10 a.m.
In Kansas, however, all registered voters – people with or without an excuse – are able to cast an absentee ballot by mail. It’s been that way since 1996.
To request the advance ballot option, residents who live in Kansas counties — Johnson, Wyandotte, Leavenworth, Miami and Linn — should contact their county election officers . These ballots do not need to be notarized.
“Advance ballots are mailed to voters starting 20 days before the election and must be postmarked on or before Election Day and received no later than three days after the election,” according to the Kansas Secretary of State’s website.
The main things to remember are the deadlines and to sign the forms. One of the reasons some of the absentee ballots don’t get counted is that they don’t complete those forms.
“The voters need tools, they need information. And they need the tools to be confident to navigate these (requirements),” Lieberman said.