Early voting, from mail-in to absentee, skyrocketed in Missouri this year.
In 2016, 282,150 Missourians voted by absentee ballot.
This year, as of October 29, 723,058 Missourians have already submitted their absentee ballots to local election authorities.
According to the Missouri Secretary of State website, 60,377 mail-In ballots and 733,389 absentee ballots were requested in 2020. About 60% more Missourians are voting by absentee this year.
Missouri Secretary of State Jay Ashcroft said Missourians can expect to see less people at the polls on Nov. 3. But that doesn’t mean that the polls will have less safety precautions.
“It’s gonna be safe. It’s gonna be healthy,” Ashcroft said. “This is the fourth election we’ve done under coronavirus. We haven’t seen any data to indicate COVID transmission or COVID increase of transmission because of the polls,” said Ashcroft.
Ashcroft said the state has sent out thousands of masks face shields, plexi-glass shields and gallons of hand sanitizer to Missouri polling places.
“This will be the safest November election… for someone to participate in, than we’ve ever had,” said Ashcroft.
While polling places are safe, experts say voters should take their own precautions as well.
Columbia has a mask mandate, but some other mid-Missouri towns do not.
That’s why MU Healthcare Emergency Physician Christopher Sampson says it’s important to remember basic COVID-19 safety rules- even if you’re waiting in line outdoors.
“I think the best bet for people to do is to wear a mask, maintain 6 feet of distance from other people and that’s probably gonna be the safest thing you can do in this situation if you’re going to vote,” said Sampson.
He says if you find yourself in line next to someone not wearing a mask, just make sure you stay 6 feet away from them.
Sampson said another precaution people might forget is coats. If polls are crowded, early morning voting could be cold, Sampson said to remember warm clothing.
Sampson says don’t let the fear of COVID-19 discourage you from doing your civic duty. He says that if you practice social distancing, hand washing and mask-wearing, you’ll be safe while voting.
“It’s safe it’s easy, it’s secure. Please, fulfill your responsibilities as Americans and vote,” Ashcroft said.