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Concerns over mail delays as more St. Louis area residents chose absentee voting

Election watchers say 15,000 St. Louis County residents requested absentee forms in the Aug. 2016 primary. This year: 93,000.

ST. LOUIS — Cars lined up outside St. Louis County's Board of Elections polling location Saturday until the moment they closed. Curbside voting is just one of the options gaining popularity as people look for safe ways to cast their ballots during the pandemic.

"They just wanna be safe, and that's a right that everybody should have along with their right to vote," Mary Elizabeth Dorsey, Chair of St. Louis County Democratic Central Committee, said.

Dorsey said more county residents are turning to absentee and mail-in ballots, compared to numbers from similar elections. Dorsey said 15,000 St. Louis County residents requested absentee forms in the Aug. 2016 primary. This year: 93,000.

"There are people who can't go to the polls because of physical reasons, and then there are people who just won't go to the polls. And there are thousands of those folks who won't go to the polls for their safety," St. Louis City Democrats Chair Michael Butler said.

With a greater percentage of the voting population turning to the mail-in methods, election watchers like Dorsey and Butler are concerned.

General Counsel for the Missouri Voter Protection Coalition, Denise Lieberman the bipartisan organization has gotten more calls from people this year with absentee ballot concerns. Lieberman says many callers say they haven't received their ballots yets or they're afraid their vote will not be counted because of a delay in postal service turnaround time. (Missouri only counts votes delivered by the deadline, not postmarked by the deadline.)

"This hotline has been in effect since 2004. We are already seeing a tremendous increase in the number of calls all across the country into 1-866-OUR-VOTE," Lieberman said.

Dorsey says if you still have an absentee ballot in hand, don't drop it in the mail.

Instead, Lieberman offers these options:

  • If you have not received a mail-in ballot or misplaced yours, you can fill out a lost ballot affidavit at your polling location.
  • If you have an unfilled absentee form, you can surrender the form and vote in-person on election day.
  • If you have filled out your absentee ballot but do not believe it would be delivered in time, you can turn it into a polling location.

Election watchers say making sure this process moves smoothly is important for the August 4th primary, but any issues could affect turnout come November.

"If folks don’t have faith in the government for the primary election then we are going to see thanks for the November election. So we are making sure that right now every vote is counted in August and November. It’s our responsibility," Butler said.