Franklin County Clerk Tim Baker says polling places will be safe for voters next week for the general municipal election, but predicts low turnout.
The municipal election originally scheduled for April 7 was moved to Tuesday, June 2, by Missouri Gov. Mike Parson in response to the coronavirus which at the time was spreading rapidly in the state.
“Historically, the April elections have the lowest turnout anyway, and the virus doesn’t help,” Baker said. “This election will set the tone for the next two in the county. We have to get back to a sense of normalcy.”
Baker stressed the county has done all it can possibly do to keep voters and election staff safe, but will not be mandating the wearing of masks by staff or voters.
“It will all be personal choice,” he said. “Our election judges will be provided with gloves, masks and face shields, but it will be up to them if they want to wear them. I can’t stress enough how much we’ve done for safety.”
Since this is normally a low turnout election, Baker said he doesn’t anticipate lines or crowds to be an issue, but encourages voters to be patient with the new processes.
Last year, April voter turnout was 16.1 percent; 20.8 percent in 2018; 14.2 percent in 2017; 21.4 percent in 2016, the last presidential election year; and 14.8 percent in 2015.
In addition to personal protective equipment for staff, hand sanitizer and wipes will be provided for voters and social distancing guidelines will be clearly marked by orange cones.
“We are allowing voters to bring their own blue or black ink pens to fill out ballots,” Baker said. “All of our pens will be sanitized between uses and voters will be allowed to pick their own from a clean bin and place them in a separate bin after voting.”
Baker added voters also will be asked to sign in on the registration iPads using their fingers instead of the community stylus since it is more effective to disinfect the screen instead of the writing devices between uses.
Voters will be met by restaurant-style sneeze guards at the registration tables. The county purchased 120 of the guards for all of its polling places at a cost of $14,900.
Thus far, the preparations for this election have cost the clerk’s office between $30,000 and $40,000 in extra supplies and equipment.
Baker added the Franklin County Clerk’s office was the recipient of a $96,000 COVID-19 grant from Missouri Secretary of State Jay Ashcroft, who personally delivered supplies to Union last week.
The county was able to save about $15,000 by being allowed to use the ballots printed with the April 7 date on them for the new election day of June 2.
Baker said it costs the county 30 cents apiece to have ballots printed. The county prints roughly 70 percent of the total number of registered voters, which is about 49,700 ballots.
There are 45 different ballot styles for the separate races in individual parts of the county. Historically, June 2 is a date that has been used for elections in the state, so that was the day that was picked.
Baker is happy to announce all 41 of the county polling places will be open June 2.
“Franklin County is very fortunate,” he said. “Many of our neighboring counties have run into election judges having other commitments since it’s later in the summer.
“Nothing here, but other counties have experienced facilities where they normally have polling places booked for other events this time of year,” he noted.
Although all of the polling places will be open, there are four groups of county residents who will have nothing to vote for next week. This includes residents in the Berger Out of Town precinct voting for the Gasconade R-1 School District and residents of the Elmont, Stanton and Sullivan Out of Town precincts voting in the Sullivan School District.
In those four precincts there are 3,201 registered voters, but according to the clerk’s office, 454 will have nothing to vote on depending on where they live in the precinct.
There are no races in those districts since only one candidate filed for the office thus no voting is required.
There are currently 64,290 active voters in Franklin County. Another 7,069 are registered, but have not voted in a November general election in the past four years, or have moved and the clerk’s office has not been able to contact them to change their address.