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Election Board sees more registration, more voting

By Mike Genet

Since absentee voting started more than two weeks ago, and with mail-in voting allowed in Missouri amid the pandemic, the Jackson County Election Board already has received a record number of mailed ballots.

With a little more than three weeks to go before Election Day, the Election Board had processed nearly 26,300 absentee or mail-in applications, and 6,448 of those people had voted absentee in person.

That means 19,844 mailed ballots thus far. 

“We have already processed more mailed ballots in 2020 than we did total for all of the last three presidential elections combined,” said Corey Dillon, co-director, along with Tammy Brown, of the Election Board, which handles the county outside of Kansas City.

For the 2008, 2012 and 2016 presidential elections, the Election Board had 18,441 mailed ballots combined in Eastern Jackson County. While the pandemic drove some to vote absentee who might not otherwise have done so, or to take advantage of the state allowing mail-in voting, the numbers still can be astounding.

The number of those voting absentee in person through two weeks (6,448) also is on track to shatter the figures from previous presidential elections. Going back, those numbers from the Election Board in the last three presidential elections were 9,694, 8,453 and 10,122 back in 2008.

Wednesday was the last day to register to vote, whether as a new voter or changing voting jurisdiction, in the Nov. 3 election. The Election Board reports that as of Wednesday morning, it had more than 237,000 registered voters in the database, and Dillon estimated there are about 7,000 registrations still to process. That’s more than 6,000 above the 2016 election registration figure, and 3,000 above 2008, which Dillon said was a record.

Requested absentee and mail-in ballots could not go out to voters until Sept. 22, the same day in-person absentee voting started. When an absentee ballot comes in, election officials can reference the voter database and mark a ballot as received, but they can go no further.

“We keep track of what has gone out and what has come in,” Dillon said.

Five days before the election, officials are allowed – in bipartisan teams – to determine if the ballots are appropriately notarized and signed, but they can’t actually open and count them until Election Day.

Whereas in some smaller elections the Election Board can process and count all the absentees on Election Day, Dillon said their office plans to start processing those ballots as soon as possible five days before, “and believe we’ll be able to count them all on Election Day.”

Dillon also said that, despite the tremendous increase of applications and ballots, the Election Board has not become swamped.

“We have had enough staff,” she said. “Lots of great part-time help. Thank goodness.”