Benton County Readies For Big Absentee Vote This Fall

By: 
Joyce Coates
County Reporter
Mainstream media coverage of mail-in balloting focusing on the political divide leaves many voters, including voters in Benton County, concerned about election security in this November’s general election.
County Clerk, Susan Porterfield, said there are county residents concerned about the voting process who have been calling her office for information. Despite media hype, however, she does not expect to have problems with mail-in ballots during the upcoming election cycle.
Postmasters of Cole Camp, Lincoln and Warsaw post offices, not authorized to comment on the issue, directed inquiries to the USPS Gateway District in St. Louis. In response, Kimberly Caldwell-Harvey, Strategic Communications Specialist, forwarded a 3-1/2 page copy of “Postmaster General Louis DeJoy’s Opening Remarks for the USPS Board of Governors Aug. 7 Meeting.”
Two paragraphs on Page 3 of the Remarks referred to “Election Mail,” stating that the USPS “will do everything we can to deliver Election Mail in a timely manner consistent with our operational standards.” DeJoy said that voters and election officials need to be aware of the time it takes to deliver ballots; that the same delivery standards that have been in place for years are still in place; that they are not slowing down election mail or any mail deliveries; and, finally, that the Postal Service has ample capacity to deliver election mail securely and on-time.
Porterfield said for the primary election on August 4, out of Benton County’s 14,131 total registered voters, 3,924 votes were cast in person, 472 voted by absentee ballot. There were no mail-in ballots requested in that election, and two (2) absentee ballots were received too late to count.
Adhering to the deadlines applicable to each voting option is essential. Porterfield said most confusion exists because of differences between the processes for mail-in ballots and absentee ballots.  
For absentee voters, September 22, 2020 is the first day voters who expect to be prevented from voting in person at their polling place can request an absentee ballot. Reasons for voting absentee must be provided at time of requesting the ballot. This year, voters who contracted, or who are considered at-risk for contracting or transmitting COVID-19 are also eligible to vote absentee.
Absentee ballots can be requested in person at the County Courthouse at 316 Van Buren, Warsaw, MO 65355, by telephone (660) 438-7326; by Fax (660) 438-3275; or by printing out the Request for Missouri Absentee Ballot form on the Secretary of State website (https://www.sos.mo.gov/CMSImages/ElectionGoVoteMissouri/2020AbsenteeBall...). If requesting a ballot by phone, callers will be asked to confirm address, birthdate, and last 4 of their Social Security number.
If the absentee ballot is mailed, requests must be received no later than 5 PM on October 21, 2020. The deadline for voting absentee in person is 5 PM on Monday, November 2, 2020. Absentee ballots mailed in must be received by 7 PM, November 3.
Mail-in ballots, Porterfield said, must be notarized and returned strictly by mail. Governor Parson signed Senate Bill 631 on June 4, 2020, authorizing mail-in ballots to avoid the risk of contracting or transmitting COVID-19.
Registered voters can request the ballots from the County Clerk's Office, 316 Van Buren, PO Box 1238, Warsaw, MO 65355 in person or by mail. Also, spouses, parents and children of requesters may complete the mail-in ballot application on behalf of the one who wishes to vote by mail. 
Applications must be received by 5 PM, October 21, which is the last day the law allows the County Clerk to mail out the requested ballots. Voters requesting a mail-in ballot by mail, who have registered by mail and have not voted in person, are required to submit a copy of their personal identification unless they provided a copy with their registration application.
Mail-in ballots must be returned by mail in the provided envelope, with the statement on the envelope signed and witnessed by a notary. In order to be counted, mail-in ballots must be received by Benton County Clerk's Office at 316 Van Buren, PO Box 1238, Warsaw, MO 65355 at or before 7 PM on Election Day, November 3, 2020.
“We are making every effort to prevent glitches,” Porterfield said. “We do not face the same challenges as the much larger precincts in Missouri,” she said. “On Monday evening, November 2nd, we will check with the post offices; and will check again at 4:30 PM on Tuesday, November 3rd, to be sure ballots get delivered to us by 7 PM that night.”
 

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