JEFFERSON CITY, Mo. (AP) — Missouri voters for the first time Tuesday began casting ballots before Election Day without having to provide a reason why they couldn’t wait to vote in-person at their assigned polling places.
The two-week early voting period is part of a new law that also requires people to show a government-issued photo identification when voting in person. Those without photo ID can cast provisional ballots, which would count if voters later return with an ID or if their signature matches what’s on file with election authorities.
No-excuse early voting is an additional option to the regular absentee voting period, which began six weeks before the Nov. 8 election. Absentee voting still requires people to provide a reason for doing so, such as incapacitation due to illness or disability or plans to be gone on Election Day, among other things.
Some local elections officials said they were interested to see whether no-excuse early voting boosts what has been a somewhat lackluster pace for absentee voting.
In St. Louis County, the state’s largest jurisdiction, 11,869 people cast absentee ballots before Tuesday — down 13% from the same point in the 2018 midterm elections, said elections director Eric Fey. On Tuesday, the only option for in-person early voting was at the election headquarters.
But Fey said the pace could pick up when the county opens six satellite locations for in-person early voting on Thursday.
“Statewide, we have seen where it’s been a little slower than it was in the 2018 midterms,” said Cape Girardeau County Clerk Kara Clark Summers, president of the Missouri Association of County Clerks & Election Authorities.
But Summers added: “We’ve seen it’s starting to pick up.”
Secretary of State Jay Ashcroft’s office does not have statewide statistics on the number of ballots cast so far, said spokesman JoDonn Chaney.
In the state Capitol’s home of Cole County, voting booths were set up in the hallway outside of Clerk Steve Korsmeyer’s office. The was no wait to vote Tuesday morning, but there was a “steady stream of people coming in,” Korsmeyer said.
A total of 84 people voted in-person Tuesday at the Cole County clerk’s office, up from 71 on Monday when absentee reasons were still required.