Official: Get Missouri mail-in votes in week before election
JEFFERSON CITY, Mo. (AP) — A U.S. Postal Service official is warning that Missourians who are using mail-in voting this year should return their ballots at least a week before the Nov. 3 general election to ensure their votes will be counted.
Thomas Marshall, general counsel and executive vice president of the Postal Service, told Missouri's Republican Secretary of State Jay Ashcroft in a letter July 31 that the service might not be able to get all ballots to election officials in time if they are mailed too close to Election Day.
Missouri law requires all mail-in ballots to arrive by 7 p.m. on Election Day for them to be counted. Election officials are expecting a sharp increase in mail-in ballots for the general election because of coronavirus concerns and the Legislature's decision to expand mail-in voting options this year.
"We recommend that voters who choose to mail their ballots do so no later than Tuesday, October 27," Marshall said in the letter.
Missouri voters have until Oct. 21 to request an absentee ballot for the November general election, and local election officials face a three-business-day deadline to mail blank ballots to voters.
Marshall said that means there's a "significant risk" that some absentee voters won't be able to mail their completed ballots in time to make the deadline.
Marshall sent similar letters to officials in most other states.
The revelation that many voters could be disenfranchised if they try to vote by mail follows comments by President Donald Trump aimed at sowing doubts about the election. Though Trump casts his own ballot by mail, he has railed against efforts to allow others to do so, arguing without evidence that it will lead to more voter fraud.
Columbia Democratic state Rep. Kip Kendrick on Friday sent a letter to Republican Gov. Mike Parson asking that he task lawmakers with addressing the issue during their ongoing special session.
"This move would go a long way to ensure that all Missouri voters, regardless of political affiliation, will have their vote counted this November," Kendrick wrote. "It is unacceptable that election integrity is in doubt at the moment, and it is even more unacceptable for our state to not take proactive measures to protect the vote."
A spokeswoman for Parson did not immediately respond to an Associated Press request for comment Friday.
Ashcroft said slow mail delivery is a "non-issue" in the state's elections.
In a statement, he said voters can email a photo of their absentee ballot application directly to their local election official to save time. And he said voters can drop off their absentee ballots in person before Election Day.
"This is a non-issue in Missouri," Ashcroft said. "You can vote safely in person on Election Day, and we have already proven that three times in 2020 during the COVID pandemic."