Mail-in Ballot photo

News-Press NOW

The different applications are shown for absentee ballot and mail-in ballot requests. The two are for very different purposes but some of the election rules in the county apply to both ballot forms.

Mail-in ballots for the upcoming presidential election have been the center of controversy over the past several months.

In Missouri, Gov. Mike Parson recently expanded the state’s ability to allow for mail-in voters because of the coronavirus. In Buchanan County, absentee rather than mail-in voting has been used to this point. Mary Baack-Garvey, the Buchanan County clerk, said she has seen and expects an increase in absentee voting for the upcoming November election. But in terms of mail-in voting, there is no telling what to expect here since it is such a new option.

“We will see it (absentee ballots) increase a lot just because of the coronavirus,” Baack-Garvey said. “In June we did not have the mail-in option yet, that started for the August elections. With mail-in ballots, a lot of people find out that you need to have it notarized. They figure that they would rather just come in and vote rather to go find a notary.”

Baack-Garvey did not give an exact number of mail-in ballots received in Buchanan County for the August primary election but said it was not many.

The requirements are different for absentee and mail-in voting. If someone requests an absentee ballot, they must give a reason for the request. Absentee ballots for those 65 or older or those having a pre-existing condition do not need to be notarized.

If a mail-in ballot is requested, that is when notarization is required.

“Anyone can request a mail-in, but they must have it notarized and mail it back to us. So mail-in literally means mail-in, and it has to be notarized,” Baack-Garvey said.

Baack-Garvey also added there were more absentee ballots than mail-in ballots from the August election.

Mail-in ballots are tabulated the exact same way as an absentee ballot. There are 23 precincts in the county, and the “24th” is the one where all mail-in and absentee ballots will be counted this year.

“We have a resolution, bipartisan team. They look at the signatures, making sure the ones that are supposed to be notarized are and then making sure everything is right with the envelope, and they run it through the voting machine,” Baack-Garvey said.

The deadline to request a mail-in ballot or absentee ballot is two weeks before an election. People can apply for one on the Buchanan County Clerk’s website at www.co.buchanan.mo.us.

Zach Fisher can be reached at zach.fisher@newspressnow.com

Follow him on Twitter: @NPNowFisher