Election season is almost over.
After more than a year of rallies, speeches, debates and ad blitzes, Missourians on Tuesday will make their final choices in races for the White House, Congress, the Governor’s Mansion and state legislature.
To prepare for the big day, we’ve put together answers to some of the last-minute questions you may have about in-person voting, the rules at the polls, and when to expect results to arrive.
If you want to vote an absentee ballot early and you qualify to do so, today’s your last chance.
Greene County residents can go to 940 Boonville Ave., Room 113, in Springfield, from 8 a.m-5 p.m.; Christian County residents can go to 100 W. Church St., Room 304, in Ozark from 8 a.m.-4:30 p.m.
Otherwise, here’s everything you need to know about voting in-person Tuesday.
When can I vote on Election Day?
Polls will open at 6 a.m. Tuesday and close to new arrivals at 7 p.m. That means if you’re in line at 7 p.m., you’ll be able to vote.
You can also return an absentee ballot mailed to you in-person at your county clerk’s office until 7 p.m. The Greene County Clerk’s office is at 940 Boonville Ave., Room 113, in Springfield. The Christian County Clerk’s office is at 100 W. Church St., Room 304, in Ozark.
The addresses for clerks in other counties can be found online at bit.ly/moclerks.
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Where can I vote?
You can either vote at your assigned polling place or, if you’re in Greene County, one of four “central polling locations” in Springfield, which are as follows:
- JQH Arena, 685 S. John Q. Hammons Parkway (moved from the MSU Welcome Center this year)
- City Utilities Transit Center, 211 N. Main Ave.
- Cox South Hospital, 3801 S. National Ave.
- Mercy Springfield Hospital, 1235 E. Cherokee St.
If you’re in Greene County, you can look up your assigned polling place online at bit.ly/greenepolls or by calling the Greene County Clerk’s Office at 417-868-4055.
Please note: Two polling places have changed locations since August.
If you voted at Ash Grove High School in August and have not moved since, then you’ll vote at Ash Grove Methodist-Presbyterian Church, 403 E. Boone St., on Tuesday.
If you voted at Westminster Presbyterian Church, 1551 E. Portland St., in August, then you’ll vote at Delaware Elementary School, 1505 S. Delaware Ave., on Tuesday.
The Christian County Clerk’s office number is 417-582-4340.
Those in other counties can look up their polling place at bit.ly/missouripolls.
What do I need to bring to vote?
If you’re in Springfield or another city with a masking ordinance, you’ll need a mask or face covering.
You can also bring notes or research with you to help you make your choices on the ballot.
You’ll want to bring proof of identification, which can be:
- Any ID issued by the state or U.S. government, like a driver’s license or U.S. passport;
- Any ID issued by a university, college, or vocational and technical school in Missouri; or
- A copy of a current utility bill, bank statement, paycheck, government check or another government document with your name and address on it.
If you don’t bring any identification, you can still vote a provisional ballot and if your signature on that matches your signature on your voter registration, it will count.
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What’s being done to keep people safe from COVID-19?
Voters will be asked to stand 6 feet apart in line and wear masks in places where it’s required.
If you forget to bring your own mask in Greene County, there will be others available at polling places. Each Greene County voter will also be given their own pen to avoid potential surface transmission.
Hand sanitizer will also be available.
Can I wear my favorite candidate’s gear to vote?
If they’re on the ballot, no.
State law prohibits “electioneering” within 25 feet of polling places, and while that’s not specifically defined in state statute, Greene County Clerk Shane Schoeller says the general rule is to leave anything mentioning a candidate or issue on the ballot at home when you vote.
That means, at least for now, if you have a “Biden 2020” mask or “Make America Great Again” hat, you’re going to want to leave that in the car or cover it up.
You also can’t be carrying visible pamphlets or signs that advocate voting a certain way on a candidate or ballot issue while you’re voting.
What about guns?
Leave those at home, too. Missouri law bars most people from bringing guns into polling places.
“Unless you’re a member of law enforcement, you cannot carry a weapon into the polling place,” Schoeller, the Greene County Clerk, says.
Schoeller has encouraged law enforcement officers to serve as election judges if they’re interested, though, and said they’ll be there to help if a situation arises.
What if I run into trouble at the polls?
If you’re a registered voter at the right polling place, you should be able to vote.
If you get to the polling place and a poll worker says your name is not on the list of registered voters, ask them to see if you are registered at a different polling place you can go to.
If that’s not the problem and you’re being prevented from voting in some other way, you have a couple of options.
For one, you can call your local election authority’s office, which in Greene County Clerk is at 417-868-4055 and in Christian County is at 417-582-4340. Contact information for other clerks is available at bit.ly/moclerks.
You can also call the Election Protection helpline at 1-866-OUR-VOTE. Spanish speakers can call 1-888-VE-Y-VOTA.
Concerns about voting rights violations or election fraud can also be reported to the local U.S. Attorney’s Office at 816-426-3122 or to the FBI at 1-800-225-5324 or online at tips.fbi.gov.
Complaints about possible violations of federal voting rights laws can be made directly to the Justice Department’s Civil Rights Division by phone at 800-253-3931 or by complaint form at civilrights.justice.gov.
If you make a mistake on your handwritten ballot, you may ask for a new one.
You should also request paper ballots if voting machines are down at your polling place.
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When will we know who won in Missouri?
Probably the same time we usually do on election night.
That’s the way it worked in August with the primary, and Maura Browning, a spokesman for the Secretary of State’s office, said she doesn’t expect any different Tuesday barring any super-close races.
Schoeller and other local election authorities said the same thing.
While the national surge in mail-in and absentee voting is expected to delay reporting in some states, Missouri isn’t one of them thanks to key laws that help expedite the counting process.
“Anything can happen between now and Election Day,” said Eric Fey, a Democratic director of elections in St. Louis County, the state’s largest, “but we plan to report pretty much everything on election night.”
The Secretary of State will begin reporting results at enr.sos.mo.gov once all voters have finished casting ballots.
Results will also be available at News-leader.com/elections/results.
What about the presidential race?
That could take a little longer.
Crucial battleground states like Wisconsin, Michigan and Pennsylvania don’t have the head start on counting absentee ballots that Missouri does, and while Wisconsin could have results by Wednesday morning, the other two states don’t expect full results until Friday.
However, experts expect substantial results in three other crucial states — Florida, North Carolina and Arizona — on election night or early Wednesday morning.
All three went for Trump in 2016, but polls suggested they’re now leaning toward Biden. If that holds true Tuesday, Biden will have the inside track to overall victory.
If he wins Florida and one of the other states, it may be over. Those states plus the ones Hillary Clinton carried in 2016 have enough electoral votes to clinch the Electoral College.
If Trump wins those three states, attention will turn to the slower-counting Rust Belt states to see if Biden can pull it out or if Trump will be re-elected.
There will still be plenty of clues to how the results will turn out Tuesday night.
Fast-counting counties will provide data for observers to compare to the 2016 results to see if Trump is holding his margins, and if he is, that’ll be a signal he’s in good shape.
If he’s doing worse than he did in 2016, that would be a signal Biden still has a shot.
What if a race is really, really close? What triggers a recount?
Each state has its own recount laws governing close races.
Missouri law allows a candidate to request a recount within a week of when results are certified, which can take place up to two weeks after Election Day, if they meet certain thresholds.
Candidates running for state and federal office can request recounts if they lose by less than 0.5 percent of the votes cast.
Candidates for local office can request recounts if they lose by less than 1 percent of the vote.
Once the recount is granted, election authorities will have 20 days to complete it.
Don’t hold your breath if it happens, though, especially if it’s for a statewide contest: None in recent memory have made a difference in the outcome.
Austin Huguelet is the News-Leader’s politics reporter. Got something he should know? Have a question? Call him at 417-403-8096 or email him at email@example.com. You can also support local journalism at News-Leader.com/subscribe.