Lack of ballots delays absentee voting kickoff in Pulaski County
In-person absentee voting kicked off Tuesday in Missouri, unless you were in Pulaski County.
The county perhaps best known as the home of Fort Leonard Wood is still waiting on its ballots to arrive.
In an interview Tuesday afternoon, County Clerk Dave Ernst said his office’s supplier, Clinton-based Henry Adkins, had a “little production issue” and the county’s ballots were one of the last batches to be processed.
“They went on a truck (Monday) and they’re scheduled for delivery (Wednesday),” Ernst said, “so we have not started our absentee voting.”
Henry Adkins' website says the company has a client list that includes "over 160 counties throughout Missouri, Iowa & Kansas."
Ernst said he only learned of the delay Tuesday morning.
“If I’d known they were going to be late yesterday, I probably would have just gone and driven and brought them back in time,” he said.
Ernst said voters will still be able to cast ballots this week, though.
“It’s unfortunate our ballots will be a day late, but it won’t slow us down,” he said. “In-person voting will take place Thursday or (Wednesday) as soon as we get those ballots in.”
He said people waiting on absentee ballots to come through the mail shouldn’t be affected much either.
“Most of the ballots wouldn’t be mailed out until tomorrow at the earliest,” he said, “And all the envelopes to mail them in are ready to go. We just need the ballots.”
But those reassurances didn't stop Anthanett Long from leaving the clerk's office Tuesday scratching her head.
"It's not like they started preparing for this a week ago," she said. "They should have been on top of it. This is kind of an important election."
There appeared to be no such problems in Greene County, where reporters saw voters streaming in and out of the county Elections Center in Springfield early Tuesday during a press conference.
In-person absentee voting runs from Tuesday until Nov. 2, the day before Election Day.
People voting absentee ballots must have at least one of seven excuses defined in state law, the first six of which are:
- You'll be outside the county on Election Day;
- You're incapacitated or confined "due to illness or physical disability," or you're primarily responsible for taking care of a person who is;
- Your religious belief or practice;
- You work as an election authority or as a member of an election authority, or you'll be working for an election authority at a location other than your polling place;
- You're incarcerated, provided you remain qualified to vote;
- You're a participant in the state's address confidentiality program due to safety concerns.
This year only, there's also a special seventh excuse you can use if 1) you've contracted COVID-19 or 2) you meet at-risk criteria. You’re considered at-risk if:
- You're 65 or older;
- You live in a long-term care facility;
- You have chronic lung disease or moderate to severe asthma;
- You have serious heart conditions;
- You're immunocompromised;
- You have diabetes;
- You have chronic kidney disease and you're undergoing dialysis; or
- You have liver disease.
Those meeting the criteria who want to vote in-person can go to their local election authority’s office during business hours and vote just like they would on Election Day.
In Pulaski County, the clerk’s office is in the courthouse at 301 Historic Rt. 66 E., Suite 101, in Waynesville.
The office lists its hours as 8 a.m. to 4:30 p.m. Monday-Friday.
The number for the office is 573-774-4701.
In Greene County, absentee voting is held at the Elections Center at 1126 Boonville Ave. in Springfield. Hours are 8 a.m.-5 p.m. Monday-Friday. The phone number there is 417-868-4055.
In Christian County, the office is at 100 W. Church St., Room 304, in Ozark. Hours are 8 a.m.-4:30 p.m. Monday-Friday. The phone number there is 417-582-4340.
Austin Huguelet is the News-Leader's politics reporter. Got something he should know? Have a question? Call him at 417-403-8096 or email him at firstname.lastname@example.org. You can also support local journalism at News-Leader.com/subscribe.