Want to vote by mail? Deadlines are coming up fast
If you’re like any of the millions of people who said they’d crawl over broken glass to vote this year, it’s time to pony up.
With a certain virus going around and the Missouri and Kansas primaries both happening on August 4, it’s more important than ever to make your plan to vote.
If you want to vote through the mail, don’t wait—application deadlines hit this week and next week.
In Missouri, the deadline to apply for a mailed ballot is Wednesday, July 22 by 5:00 p.m. In Kansas, it’s Tuesday, July 28 by 5:00 p.m. And unlike Kansas and the IRS, which allow your mail to be postmarked by the deadline, Missouri doesn’t extend that luxury. Missouri applications (and ballots) must be received in-house by the deadline.
Get a mail-in ballot application online from your local election board. Jackson, Kansas City MO, Wyandotte, Johnson, Platte, and Clay county election boards have applications online. Fill it out and mail or hand-deliver it back to the office. Some offices allow you to email them. Johnson County even allows you to text in a photo of your application—how easy is that?!
When you receive your ballot in the mail—and we can’t stress this enough—fill out the whole thing.
Roughly a third of voters don’t fully complete their mail-in ballot, according to election research. Local offices may not be as well-known, but they are powerful. Local office-holders manage issues like policing and criminal justice, elections, taxes, women’s reproductive rights, civil rights, housing rights, small business regulations, grant programs, and so much more.
Flip your ballot over to look at both sides of it. Missouri’s Medicaid expansion ballot initiative, for instance, may be on the back of some ballots. After Oklahoma’s successful Medicaid expansion earlier this year—won by a slim margin of 50.5% of the vote, in a state trounced by Donald Trump’s 36-point margin of victory—pundits are watching Missouri closely. Your vote could change the outcome for an estimated 200,000 Missourians who could become eligible for health care if the expansion passes.
If you aren’t sure who to vote for, that’s okay—many, many organizations are here to help.
Your county-level Democratic and Republican parties can let you know who’s endorsed. The League of Women Voters provides independent, nonpartisan information about each candidate and ballot measure, so you can see how they compare—visit vote411.org, or give your local League of Women Voters a call. Many political action committees, like those active on environmental protection, civil rights, business regulations, or women’s health care rights for instance, produce voter guides to help you see how candidates score on the issues.
After you marked your ballot, you’re not done yet. Plan out a few more important double-checks.
Don’t forget to sign your ballot. Your county elections board verifies your vote by comparing the signature on your ballot to a signature of yours that they have on file. No signature, no vote. If your signature has changed recently due to illness or marriage, contact your county elections board.
Missouri law requires you to notarize your ballot before mailing it in or dropping it off, unless you are voting absentee due to illness or if you’re at high risk of coronavirus (all other reasons for voting absentee or voting by mail require a notary). Kansas doesn’t require a notary. Last month, a court ruled that an ACLU challenge to Missouri’s notary requirement can move ahead, but the case isn’t decided yet. Missouri has a list of pro-bono notaries here. Banks commonly offer notary services or you can contact your local county political party or League of Women Voters for free referrals.
Return your ballot as soon as you can. With mail volume at an all-time high during the pandemic, post offices are urging voters not to wait. For added security, you can hand-deliver your ballot to your county elections office.
If you have any questions about voting, no matter how weird or basic they may seem, you aren’t alone. Call your county election board (KCMO voters should call the Kansas City Board of Elections). They’ve heard it all and they expect a lot of calls, so don’t be shy. Bonus: If you care about voting access and transparency, get to know your county elections board.
Voting is no small thing. It is highly regulated because it causes seismic shifts within our highest offices of power.
In down-ballot elections, off-year elections and primaries–when fewer people vote–your ballot is all the more important. And for people excluded from our elections–such as those in incarceration, folks under age 18, or taxpayers who are not yet naturalized citizens–your vote can speak for those who can’t. Make a plan, dear reader, and make your voice heard.