Over 100,000 St. Louisans Have Already Cast Ballots In Missouri; Election Officials Predict Record Turnout
Updated at 3:16 p.m. Oct. 15 with new Missouri voter registration counts
More than 110,000 Missouri voters in the St. Louis region have already cast their ballots three weeks ahead of the Nov. 3 general election.
Election authorities are busy processing those absentee and mail-in ballots and preparing for what could be record-breaking voter turnout. As of Oct. 15, around 112,000 more Missouri voters had registered to vote than in either the 2012 or 2016 presidential elections.
“Myself, as well as the other 116 election authorities, are working their tails off to make sure everything is run properly,” Franklin County Clerk Tim Baker said. “I mean all eyes are on us.”
Voter registrations up statewide and in St. Louis metro
St. Charles County has seen the largest gains in voter registrations in the region since the last presidential election. As of Tuesday, around 20,000 more St. Charles County voters are registered this year than in 2016. At more than 290,000 registered voters, it is the second-largest voting jurisdiction in the state, behind St. Louis County.
Jefferson and Franklin counties saw increases of about 10,000 and 3,500 registrations, respectively, compared to 2016. The rolls in St. Louis have remained steady at around 220,000 registered voters.
Preliminary counts showed registrations in St. Louis County decreasing since 2016 by more than 6,000 to about 756,000.
The Missouri Secretary of State’s office will issue final voter registration numbers for all counties on Nov. 3.
Absentee and mail-in ballots roll in
Missouri lawmakers in June temporarily expanded opportunities to vote by mail. Since then, thousands of voters have cited increased risk of health complications if they were to contract the coronavirus as a reason for voting early.
Requests for absentee or mail-in ballots nearly doubled in St. Louis, St. Louis County and Franklin County for the general election, compared to the August primary. St. Louis County election officials expect a third of the final tally in November to be from early voting.
Jefferson County is opening satellite locations during the last week of October for in-person absentee voting and extending daily office hours to 8 a.m. to 8 p.m. to meet demand.
Despite the recent attention on voting by mail, only 15% of all registered voters in the Missouri half of the St. Louis region have requested absentee or mail-in ballots. There’s still time to request one — 5 p.m. Oct. 21 is the deadline — and Jefferson County Election Clerk Ken Waller is urging voters to do just that.
“You're going to have thousands of people standing in line to vote. If you had people every six feet apart, you would have people out on highways and around buildings,” Waller said of his county’s polling sites.
In Illinois, the last day to request a vote-by-mail ballot is Oct. 29. Illinois does not have absentee ballots or require a notary to certify mail-in ballots.
St. Clair County Clerk Thomas Holbrook said he expects nearly half of his county’s final tally to be from ballots cast before Election Day. The 70-year-old predicts this election will have the highest voter turnout in his lifetime.
“[This election is] so polarized, and it's so energized, and you don’t want to be standing at some polling place trying to have some issue rectified,” Holbrook said.
Missouri vote-by-mail lawsuits update
On Friday, the Missouri Supreme Court held up the notary requirement for a majority of absentee and mail-in ballots.
The only exemptions from the notary requirement in Missouri are for people who are considered at high risk if they contract the coronavirus, people who are confined due to a physical disability or illness and caregivers.
The ruling has its roots in a lawsuit filed by the Missouri NAACP and the League of Women Voters.
In a separate decision Friday, a federal judge in Kansas City ruled that mail-in ballots can be dropped off in person at local election authorities. On Saturday, however, that decision was halted from being carried out after that same judge granted a motion by Secretary of State Jay Ashcroft to postpone the rule change. Ashcroft argued the current voting by mail process was already “in full swing.”
Missouri voters who requested a mail-in ballot still must return those ballots by mail.
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