By Monte Miller
Missourian Staff Writer
Franklin County Clerk Tim Baker said his office is averaging between 800 and 900 calls a day from residents with questions about mail-in voting for the August and November elections.
Guidelines released by Secretary of State Jay Ashcroft in June state voters who are incapacitated due to illness or physical disability, including caring for a person who is incapacitated or confined due to illness or physical disability, will not be required to have their ballots notarized. The new guidelines were issued due to the COVID-19 pandemic.
Baker said the county sent out 12,400 postcards to households with residents aged 65 and above advising them of the new guidelines. “Since they hit mailboxes Monday, our staff has barely been able to put the phone down before they have to pick it up again,” he said.
“Most of the callers are seniors,” Baker said. “This was strictly our call in an effort to get as much information out to seniors as possible. We want everybody to have the opportunity to vote.”
The postcards and mailing cost $2,600 and was paid for using CARES Act grant money.
To date, Baker said hisoffice has mailed 1,700 ballots to people who say they meet the new guidelines. In addition, Baker said the number of county voters who classify themselves as permanently disabled has risen from 760 to 900. Those voters already qualified for mail-in ballots.
The deadline for county residents who meet the criteria to request a mail-in ballot is 5 p.m. Wednesday, July 22.
Baker said the clerk’s office has had a running countdown on the mail-in request deadline on its social media page, and he believes there will still be residents upset they did not know about the opportunity.
Since early spring, Baker has been steadfast in his opposition to mail-in voting because of the potential for fraud, but as the county’s chief election officer he is complying with state statute in light of the COVID-19 pandemic.
“I don’t mind absentee, but I still believe in going to the polls and voting,” Baker said.
Absentee ballots are sent to voters in yellow envelopes and mail-in ballots are sent out in white envelopes.
Baker said applications for mail-in ballots will not be accepted after 5 p.m. Wednesday, July 22.
“Even if they are postmarked that day, they have to physically be in our possession,” he said.
The same will be true for completed ballots in the Aug. 4 primary.
If they are not in the hands of clerk’s office staff by 7 p.m. that day, they will not be counted.