PALMYRA, Mo. | Missouri's Tuesday, Aug. 4, Primary Election will feature some new voting options.
Among the changes is one that allows more people to cast absentee ballots, according to Marion County Clerk Valerie Dornberger.
“We always have had absentee ballots, so nothing has really changed there, except now the voter has the option in 2020 only to vote absentee due to contracting COVID or being at risk of contracting COVID,” she said.
Voters are considered to be at risk if they are age 65 or older, live in a long-term care facility, have chronic lung disease or moderate to severe asthma, have serious heart conditions, are immunocompromised, have diabetes, have chronic kidney disease and are undergoing dialysis, or have liver disease.
A voter who is eligible as a result of being susceptible to COVID-19 may cast a ballot without obtaining notarization of the ballot envelope.
A mail-in option is available to all registered voters, but the ballot envelope must be notarized.
“Mail-in balloting is only for 2020,” said Dornberger, adding that thus far her office has only received five ballots through the mail.
While some areas expect to be swamped with absentee ballots, that does not appear to be a major concern in Marion County.
“Our absentee balloting is running about the same for this election,” Dornberger said. In 2018, 363 absentee ballots were cast in Marion County during the August Primary Election. As of late this week 316 absentee ballots had been received.
“I think we could possibly see around 400 absentees for this election,” Dornberger said. “I really thought voters would take advantage of the option to vote absentee due to COVID-related reasons. I believe that there is a lot of disinformation around that voters believe that absentee balloting can be fraudulent. But we've been doing this for years without any problems.”
All absentee and mail-in ballots must be received by election day in order to be counted. An exception would be ballots cast by those serving in the military.Those ballots will be counted as long as they are received by Friday, Aug. 7.
As for those planning to vote in person, Dornberger said precautions will be taken to protect them.
“I have given all my election judges masks, gloves and cleaning supplies. We are attempting to make it is safe as possible on election day. We will also have sneeze guards set up when a voter signs in to receive their ballot,” she said.
The coronavirus threat has not only cost Dornberger some poll workers, but also some polling places.
“I haven't had but a handful of judges who are not working due to the pandemic. We were able to find replacements fairly easy,” she said. “I did, however, have to find some new polling locations as some of the previous polling places have restrictions and are not allowing the public into their buildings.”
First Ward voters normally vote at Hannibal Fire Station 3 and the Emergency 911 Call Center will be moved to 7A Northport Plaza.
Second Ward voters who normally vote at the Douglass Community Center will be moved to the Admiral Coontz Recreation Center, 301 Warren Barrett Drive in Hannibal.
All Palmyra voters will be moved to the American Legion, 5 Charlie Brown Industrial Drive in Palmyra.
Dornberger, who anticipates a 30% voter turnout on Tuesday, believes the second election of the coronavirus era will go smoothly.
“The June election I admit was a bit of a challenge just because we were putting in place a lot of extra precautions due to COVID. But since we have been through one election with all these changes, such as spacing the voting booths, sneeze guards and placing distance markers, etc. we now know what worked in June and what didn't work so well. I believe that gives us a better grip on what works for both August and November elections,” she said.
As for the Primary Election ballot in Marion County there will be three contested races on the Republican side of the ballot. For Western District commissioner, incumbent Steve Begley will face Eddie Bogue. In the race for assessor, Mark J. Novak goes up against Joshua Parson. The other GOP battle will be for public administrator, where Melonie Nevels is pitted against Wendy W. Howe.
There will only be one contested race among Democrats in Marion County. Seeking the Mason Township committeeman position in the Second Ward are John E. Yancey and O.C. Latta.
Polling places will open at 6 a.m. and remain open until 7 p.m.