Voters line up outside the county clerk's office

Voters line up outside the Franklin County Clerk's Office Friday, Oct. 30, in Union. Cones were set up so voters stayed socially distanced while waiting in line.

Franklin County voters continue to set records.

On Monday, Oct. 26, a record 327 people voted in person at the county clerk’s office. That record lasted one day before 337 voted Tuesday and was broken again with 379 voters Wednesday.

Voting Thursday came up just short of another record, with 370 people casting ballots.

Clerk Tim Baker has been in the lobby each day, starting at 8 a.m., to answer voters’ questions and make sure social distancing is maintained.

“It’s great to talk to the voters,” he said. “Pretty much all the voters have been super great to work with.”

In total, around 3,781 votes had been cast in person at the clerk’s office as of Thursday. Combine that with the 4,300 absentee and mail-in ballots that have been received, and more than 8,000 of the county’s 74,000 registered voters, or nearly 11 percent, already have cast their ballots.

While 4,700 absentee ballots were sent out, Baker said between 75 and 100 of those were returned unmarked to the clerk’s office. Those voters then cast in-person absentee ballots.

Baker said the longest it has taken to vote is around an hour for a period on Wednesday, with an average wait of 25-30 minutes.

It takes longer to vote in-person absentee than on Election Day because workers must assist voters in marking an excuse for not being able to vote on Election Day.

During the last presidential election in 2016, a total of 3,190 absentee ballots were turned in.

Baker anticipates a voter turnout of 73 percent. While there will be lines, he said they will not approach the hours long waits seen in some states.

The largest precinct in the county has 4,000 voters, Baker said. If all of them showed up at once, it could be quite a line, but that won’t happen.

“I can’t emphasize how great my staff is,” he said. “We all work as a great team and go as fast as we can.”

As of Thursday morning, absentee voting appeared to be high in neighboring counties as well.

In Jefferson County, around 12,000 absentee ballots had been returned, while another 10,137 people had voted in person. The clerk’s office there had two satellite early voting locations.

In total, nearly 14 percent of Jefferson County’s 159,687 registered voters already had cast ballots.

Jefferson County Clerk Ken Waller is expecting 75 percent voter turnout in the county. He said the last time it approached this level was 2008, when Missouri was still seen as a bellwether state, and 72 percent of voters turned out.

“It’s been nuts,” he said.

In smaller Gasconade County, a total of 722 absentee ballots had been sent out or voted in person. The clerk’s office estimated all but about 50 of the ballots sent out had been returned. That adds up to around 7 percent of the 10,789 registered voters already voting.

Baker and Waller agree that Missouri residents should be able to vote early in-person without an excuse.

“I am 100 percent for no-excuse absentee voting, but you have to show proper ID,” Baker said.

With Election Day approaching, Baker advises anyone with a traditional absentee ballot to take it to the elections office instead of mailing it. If you have a mail-only ballot, bring it to the Union Post Office.

After talking with the Union postmaster, Baker said the post office will have special truck runs on Sunday and will make one last ballot drop before the 7 p.m. Tuesday deadline. 

“They’ve been great to work with,” he said of the post office.

Baker also reminds voters that they can vote as long as they are in line by 7 p.m. Tuesday

Voters could have to wait a little longer than usual to see Franklin County results. The Missouri Secretary of State’s office is requesting that counties hold off on starting to release results until all voting is done in the state. That means that if the last Franklin County voter casts a ballot at 7:20 p.m. but a precinct in Kansas City has its last voter at 7:55, Franklin County will wait until the Kansas City voting is done to release results.

But ballots will still be counted during that time, meaning the initial release will show more complete results, Baker said.

In-person absentee voting will be available from 8 a.m. to noon Saturday, Oct. 31, as well as Monday, Nov. 2, at the clerk’s office, 400 E. Locust St., in Union.