Auditor Galloway calls on Governor Parson to issue an order that the COVID-19 pandemic is a valid excuse for absentee voting

April 13, 2020

Galloway asks Parson to drop his opposition to safer voting alternatives

Columbia, Mo. — Auditor Nicole Galloway is calling on Governor Parson to heed the advice of public health experts, the CDC, and local election authorities and issue an executive order that enables expanded absentee and early voting as Missouri continues to overcome the COVID-19 pandemic. On March 27, the CDC published recommendations to states for conducting elections. Their top recommendations included encouraging the use of mail-in ballots and expanded early voting to disperse crowds at polling places.

Missouri’s local officials are heeding the recommendations of the experts. Local election authorities, both Republicans and Democrats, have called for guidance and relief funds to expand voting methods that adhere to public health recommendations. On Friday, St. Louis County Executive Sam Page wrote to Missouri Secretary of State Jay Ashcroft asking his office to issue local guidance on absentee and early voting. Governor Parson has so far resisted. “Our system is fine,” Parson said Thursday when asked about the possibility of expanding voting options during a pandemic

“While we hope that mitigation measures will no longer be necessary when the time comes for Missourians to vote, hope is not a plan,” said Galloway. “Public health experts and a bipartisan group of local election authorities are asking to conduct elections safely in order to avoid disenfranchising voters. Governor Parson should drop his resistance and provide a path for local election authorities to ensure that everyone can vote safely. At a minimum, this should include no excuse absentee vote by mail and expanded early voting.”

While Missouri statute requires voters to provide an excuse for early voting or absentee by mail, the Governor could issue guidance that interprets the law such that an infectious disease pandemic represents a valid excuse. Governor Parson has already issued executive orders changing the date of the municipal elections and waiving the requirement that absentee ballots be notarized in-person. Continuing to suggest that only the legislature can expand the use of absentee vote by mail is not a valid excuse for inaction.

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