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With Fewer Polling Places In The St. Louis Region, Expect Long Lines On Election Day

Elections officials closed many polling places in St. Louis County and St. Louis because of the coronavirus pandemic. Voting advocates said voters should prepare to make a plan to vote this year.
Kayla Drake
St. Louis Public Radio
Elections officials closed many polling places in St. Louis County and St. Louis because of the coronavirus pandemic. Voting advocates said voters should prepare to make a plan to vote this year.

Voters in St. Louis and St. Louis County have fewer polling places to cast their ballots this election because of the coronavirus pandemic.

The county now has 231 polling places, down from nearly 400 in the 2016 presidential election. In 2016, St. Louis had 115 voting locations, which have since decreased to 100 locations.

County elections officials said they closed some polling sites because they could not accommodate social distancing. They closed other sites because poll workers did not sign up out of fear of contracting the virus.

“We wanted to make sure that we were able to staff all of our polling places adequately and we could only use basically facilities that had to let us in,” said St. Louis County Republican Director of Elections Rick Stream.

St. Louis elections officials saw similar reasons to cut polling locations. Gary Stoff, St. Louis Republican director of elections, said they eliminated voting sites that were located in senior facilities across the city because senior residences were hit hard by the virus and did not want to put people at risk.

Stoff said it’s unfortunate that the city has to cut the number of polling places, but because of the option to vote absentee or by mail, he is expecting fewer voters at the polls.

“I fully expect that there will be lines at the polling places on November 3 and probably longer lines than normal, not because of an increase in voter turnout, but because of social distancing,” Stoff said.

Voter advocates say voters should prepare to make arrangements to vote this year.

“The primary impact that I see is sometimes people had polling places really close to where they lived, now they may have to go a little further,” said Vicki Washington, chair of the St. Louis Area Voting Initiative.

Washington suggests that voters research their precincts or locations for the nearest polling sites before heading to vote. She also advises voters to bring photo identification or a utility bill that may be used in place of a photo ID.

St. Louis County voters can cast their ballots at any polling place, while St. Louis voters are required to vote at their specified precinct. Satellite polling locations are open in St. Louis and St. Louis County for voters to cast their absentee or vote-by-mail ballots before Election Day.

Washington said absentee or mail-in voters should track their ballots ahead of time, because if the ballot is not received by Nov. 2, then they should prepare to vote in person on Election Day.

Follow Andrea on Twitter: @drebjournalist

Copyright 2021 St. Louis Public Radio. To see more, visit St. Louis Public Radio.

Andrea Henderson joined St. Louis Public Radio in March 2019, where she covers race, identity and culture as part of the public radio collaborative Sharing America. Andrea comes to St. Louis Public Radio from NPR, where she reported for the race and culture podcast Code Switch and produced pieces for All Things Considered. Andrea’s passion for storytelling began at a weekly newspaper in her hometown of Houston, Texas, where she covered a wide variety of stories including hurricanes, transportation and Barack Obama’s 2009 Presidential Inauguration. Her art appreciation allowed her to cover arts and culture for the Houston African-American business publication, Empower Magazine. She also covered the arts for Syracuse’s Post-Standard and The Post and Courier in Charleston, South Carolina.