Jackson County setting records with thousands of absentee voters casting their ballots

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INDEPENDENCE, Mo. — Jackson County is setting voting records before Election Day despite the fact that there isn’t official “early voting” like in Kansas.

In Missouri, you can vote by mail, though the deadline to request a mail-in ballot has passed, or you can vote absentee, but you must meet one of seven reasons. This year, one of those reasons is being at-risk to COVID-19 infection.

And in Jackson County, election officials are seeing crowds of absentee voters every day.

“Today will be another 1,300. Yesterday was another 1,300,” said Corey Dillon, Democratic director of the Jackson County Election Board.

Dillon said the line has been out the door and wrapped around the building since September when absentee voting began. They’ve processed 8,000 more absentee applications than they did in the last three presidential elections combined.

“As uncertain as this year has been, lots of folks just want to get it done and get it over with so that they know that that’s off their list,” Dillon said.

People voting absentee in Missouri have to cite one of seven reasons they need to cast their ballot early.

“This year, the most common one is if you are 65 or older, you are automatically in an at-risk category for COVID, and so you are automatically eligible to vote absentee,” Dillon said. “You don’t have to bring proof. We take you at your word.”

Kaitlyn Bover started college this year and said she didn’t want to mail in her ballot but knew she still wanted to vote.

“A lot of the current issues like either affect me or affect people I care about, and it’s just really important for me to be able to vote for who I think is right for our area and for our country,” Bover said.

People at the election board’s absentee voting site Wednesday said the line moved quickly, and they also offer curbside voting, which on Wednesday was for people with disabilities. For a few hours Saturday and on Election Day, it will be reserved for people with COVID-19 or people quarantining.

If you plan on voting in person, election officials are urging voters to check their polling locations. Many have changed, some due to the pandemic.

“There are a few less, but they’re in bigger spaces so while we have fewer buildings we’re putting the polls in larger spaces so that we can accommodate social distancing,” Dillon said.

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