Missouri should continue its commendable progress in expanding access to mail voting. By passing legislation to make absentee voting not require an excuse, Missouri can give its citizens the opportunity to vote in whichever manner they find safest and most convenient.
Missouri’s current permanent absentee list is not what we would consider a true permanent absentee option, as voters are only sent applications, not ballots, for each election. This increases barriers to the ballot box and increases paperwork (and cost!) for both the voter and the localities. Switching to a true permanent option (and increasing eligibility to all voters, rather than just the permanently disabled) would increase voter access and save the state significant expense by cutting down on the requests they need to process, with localities saving an average of $1 for every request they no longer need to process.
Some counties in Missouri offer an ideal ballot tracking system, but currently there is no statewide system. NVAHI recommends that Missouri implement a ballot tracking system statewide. Ballot tracking software such as Ballot Scout or Ballot TRACE can be a very cost effective tool that increases voter confidence by allowing voters to track their ballot much like an Amazon package. It also adds a layer of data for the elections office who can also track the ballots to make sure they have reached their destination. Furthermore, these tools can be used as another modality to contact voters if there is a signature mismatch or deficiency on their return envelope.
Creating an online portal for voters to request an absentee ballot not only makes it much more convenient for voters, it also would be a boon to election officials. The system could be built to feed directly into the voter registration system to help verify addresses, collect contact information, and to remove administrative steps (and costs!) to process a large amount of requests. We encourage an integrated process that allows new voters to register, current voters to make changes to their address and make requests for ballots in a seamless manner.
Offering secure drop boxes as another method for voters to return ballots are a cost-effective way to reduce strain on the postal system, and are sometimes a preferred method by voters who want an extra bit of reassurance that their ballot makes it to the elections office on time. We highly recommend including provisions to allow for ballots to be received at polling and vote centers, as well as other locations deemed necessary by the clerk.
We highly recommend creating vote centers, or polling locations where any voter in the county can vote. This is a way to streamline the system so over time, as the share of the vote cast by mail increases, counties can have fewer overall polling locations, while individual voters will have more voting location options.
Expanding accepting of ballots with Election Day postmarks received shortly after election day is a best practice to ensure that voters are given all options to vote their ballot in a timely manner, and one that Missouri already follows: Missouri already offers postmark acceptance for military and overseas voters. Accepting Election Day postmarks is estimated in most jurisdictions to decrease ballot rejection rates by half.
Signature verification can eliminate the need for notary requirements while ensuring the security of the election process, streamlining ballot processing, and lowering barriers for voters.
In the event that a voter’s ballot is rejected, said voter should have the ability to cure any correctable issues with their ballot quickly and simply to lower rejection rates. As more voters use absentee ballots and, understandably, the number of rejected absentee ballots increases, we recommend implementing a Text2Cure system that allows voters to cure their ballots from their phones.
Processing mail ballots to get them ready for counting before election day will help Missouri get faster election results. Missouri has 5 days of preprocessing, which recommend expanding to at least 7 days before election day. Preliminary data also suggests that preprocessing helps avoid any blue or red shifts when there are differences in the partisan lean of mail vs. in person ballots, which could increase voter confidence in the results of elections.