With each election, no matter how large or small, Cole County residents have the opportunity to cast a ballot and vote on issues that impact daily life as well as the leaders who carry them out. But the right to vote has not always been so free. This year marked both the 150th anniversary of the 15th Amendment, which granted African-American men the right to vote, and the 100th anniversary of the 19th Amendment, which extended voting rights to women. Still, many women of color didn’t have the right to vote until 1965, after the passage of the Voting Rights Act. Five years later, in 1970, the act was modified to eliminate literacy testing and other challenges to free elections. Further advances occurred with The Voting Accessibility for the Elderly and Handicapped Act of 1984 and The National Voter Registration Act of 1993.

In an ideal world, these advances would inspire everyone eligible to get out and vote on election day, but the fact remains that many individuals stay home from the polls. According to Cole County’s records, in 2016, 37,981 out of 53,763 registered voters selected a candidate for president. That equates to a 70.65% voter turnout.

Typically, more localized elections draw smaller crowds. For example, in the Nov. 6, 2018, election, 33,737 ballots were cast, representing 63.37% of registered voters. Only 12,132 Cole County voters completed ballots in the March 10, 2020, Presidential Primary. 

The year 2020 has presented unprecedented challenges to our world, and we’re seeing regular reports and questions about November’s upcoming election in light of voter access, COVID-19 concerns, foreign interference, mailing matters, and more. Below are a few things Cole County residents should know about the November 3, 2020, General Election.

This General Election will allow you to vote for your preferred presidential candidate, but it’s also an opportunity to elect or vote to retain state and local officials, like the governor and judges. Anecdotal evidence suggests that some voters choose to skip lower portions of the ballot in favor of focusing on more popularized contests, like the presidential race. Ultimately, what you choose to select is simply up to you, and there is no punishment for not completing the entire ballot. However, if you want to have a say in more than just the “hot” contests, you can prepare in advance by viewing a sample ballot and researching each listed candidate and issue in advance of election day. These sample ballots are available through Missouri’s Voter Outreach Center and are also provided on-site at your polling place.

Speaking of polling places, confirming yours in advance of election day can save you time and frustration. While many voters go to the same polling place over the course of their lifetime, if you’ve recently moved or haven’t voted in a while, you might show up to the wrong place to cast your vote. Through the Secretary of State’s Voter Outreach Center, you can confirm your polling place in advance and avoid driving from location to location. If you do end up in the wrong spot, don’t panic! You’re still able to vote. Talk to a helpful poll worker or election judge to see your options, which might include simply updating your voter registration info.

“If you do end up in the wrong spot, don’t panic! You’re still able to vote.”

Hannah Kiddoo Frevert

Under Missouri’s “Show It 2 Vote” laws, you’ll need one of several forms of voter ID to cast your ballot. The Secretary of State lists the following as acceptable options: 

  • Identification issued by the state of Missouri, an agency of the state, or a local election authority of the state;
  • Identification issued by the United States government or agency thereof;
  • Identification issued by an institution of higher education, including a university, college, vocational and technical school, located within the state of Missouri; or
  • A copy of a current utility bill, bank statement, paycheck, government check or other government document that contains the name and address of the voter.

If you don’t have one of these, you may cast a provisional ballot (assuming you can return and show an ID or your signed voter card later). If you don’t have any of these documents, you can apply for a FREE nondriver license by calling 573-527-VOTE or visiting dor.mo.gov.

Per the Secretary of State, for the November General Elections, “Missouri voters will be eligible to cast ballots by mail with notarization of the ballot envelope, and voters in at-risk categories for contracting or transmitting COVID-19 are eligible to vote by absentee ballot without obtaining notarization.” You can learn more about voting absentee or by mail here.

If you qualify but aren’t currently a registered voter (you can check that here), you have until Oct. 7 to fill out the proper forms and cast a ballot in November. You can register online, by mail, or in person. To learn more about those options, go to sos.mo.gov. 

Options for supporting our democracy don’t stop when you cast your ballot. In fact, there are many ways to get involved with the voting process, including serving as a notary, driving friends and family to polling locations, and educating others about their voting rights. Additionally, Cole County is always looking for election judges to staff our 28 polling places. It’s a long day, but judges receive up to $150 and have the opportunity to see the election process in action.

Voting can get confusing when you have multiple places of residence. You’re welcome to register and vote in Cole County or instead vote in a home county where you are currently registered. If you plan to vote in Cole County and haven’t before, you’ll need to fill out a new registration form in advance of the Oct. 7 deadline. If you plan to vote in a county outside of Cole, you’ll need to make plans to be there on election day or request mail-in, absentee, or other early voting options. No matter your location, you can contact your local county clerk’s office to clarify your plan will work for your needs.