After a record turnout in the November 2020 election, Franklin County Clerk Tim Baker is expecting a more quiet lead up to the municipal voting Tuesday, April 6.
But, with absentee voting starting Tuesday, Feb. 23, lots of changes are in place that voters still need to know about. Most notably, mail-in absentee voting will look more like it did in elections before last November, since COVID-19-related changes have expired.
Unless a voter is registered as having a permanent disability, they will need to request an absentee ballot by 5 p.m. March 24. The request forms can be found on the clerk’s section at FranklinMo.org or at the clerk’s office at 401 E. Main St. in Union.
Voters will again need an excuse to vote absentee by mail for the April election. Concern over COVID-19 is no longer listed as an excuse.
People mailing their ballots will need to get the ballot notarized, unless they have a permanent disability.
Voters with permanent disabilities will be sent the request forms automatically but will still have to fill them out to receive the absentee ballot. While Baker said the county saw a large increase in the number of people registered with permanent disabilities last year, up to nearly 1,200 from 800 previously, only about half will receive the request forms.
That’s because the other half live in the four voting precincts with no races on the ballot in April. The polling places that will be closed are the Union out of town site at the fire station, the Beaufort Lions Club, the Spring Bluff R-XV School near Sullivan and Jeffriesburg, which votes at St. Joseph Neier Catholic Church.
“For the April election, we will send it only to the people who are able to vote,” said Jane Luechtefeld, the county’s director of elections. “If they don’t want to vote, they don’t send anything back.”
Registered voters also can still vote in person at the clerk’s office from 8 a.m. to 4:30 p.m. Monday through Friday from Feb. 23 to April 5, though they also will need an excuse. The clerk’s office also will be open the Saturday before the election.
“That’s going to be a little different, because Easter Sunday is the weekend before the election,” Baker said. “So we’ll be here Saturday but closed Good Friday.”
The deadline to register to vote in the April 6 election is Wednesday, March 10.
Two county polling places are moving for the April 6 election. Catawissa voters will now cast their ballots at the Heart of Worship Community Church, 3861 Highway N, while Labadie’s polling place will now be the Labadie Community Center, 217 Washington St.
Baker expects to see voter turnout of about 23 percent. That’s a fraction of the 72 percent of voters who turned out for the November presidential election, but an increase over the 7 percent turnout for the 2020 municipal election. That election, which was the lowest turnout in 46 years, was pushed from April to June because of the pandemic.
Because of the lower turnout, Baker is not sure if his office will again request a parking space for curbside voting in front of the Union Police station. But it will still accommodate people who need to vote from their cars if they call and let officials know.
Some contested races could increase turnout from the 2020 municipal elections, including three contested council races in Washington, with the Ward 1 race having five candidates, Baker said. Other races include a three-person mayoral election in St. Clair, a city marshal race in Pacific and an aldermen race in Union.
Anyone with questions about voting is asked to call the clerk’s office at 636-583-6364.
Baker has recently been critical of the county’s new payroll software, which he said led to election judges not being paid for eight weeks after the November election, compared to four weeks in the past. The judges also had still not received their W-2 tax forms as of Thursday, Feb. 18.
While he has expressed concerns that he could lose poll workers because of the software issues, Baker expects to be fully staffed with 210 poll workers April 6.
“I’m extremely grateful; we have very loyal judges that will still come in and work for us,” Baker said.
The clerk’s office also will continue to dedicate a worker to clean at the larger polling places. “We are not out of the pandemic yet,” he said.
The clerk’s office also will be using a ballot printer that it purchased with a grant from the Missouri Secretary of State’s Office. It will allow workers to print ballots on demand instead of printing them in advance, which could lead to shredding ballots if not as many voters as expected show up.