The big day is finally here.
Millions of Missourians and tens of thousands of Greene County residents will head to the polls today to cast their ballots in an election expected to draw historic voter turnout.
Greene County Clerk Shane Schoeller predicted 75-80 percent of registered voters will cast a ballot this year, potentially eclipsing 2016’s turnout of 68 percent in Greene County.
It’s one of several things that may look different about this election.
Along with masks and abundant hand sanitizer, the number of people who have voted absentee either in person or by mailing in ballots is expected to be higher than ever amid the COVID-19 pandemic.
Schoeller said more than 36,000 Greene County voters requested absentee or no excuse mail-in ballots this year — roughly three times the number that voted absentee in 2016.
As of Monday morning, more than 31,400 people had returned their ballot either in person or by mail, and over the past two weeks, between 700 and 1,000 people headed to the Greene County Elections Center to vote each day.
“It has been busy,” Schoeller said.
55-60 percent of voters are still expected to show up in person on Election Day, which is still a high number, Schoeller said.
To prepare, Springfield Public Schools canceled classes Tuesday because roughly a dozen schools are used as polling places. That practice isn’t altogether new, though it is necessary to alleviate safety concerns and traffic congestion, district officials have said.
Election officials have also reserved JQH Arena on Missouri State University’s campus to be this year’s central polling place instead of the Davis-Harrington Welcome Center.
Schoeller said last month he worried about crowding at the welcome center, which had become a popular place to vote.
The expected high turnout and uptick in absentee voting have been consistent across the state.
According to the Secretary of State’s Office, 816,756 people had requested absentee ballots and 60,173 had asked for mail-in ballots by the Oct. 21 deadline.
As of Monday morning, 827,978 of those ballots had been returned to a local election authority, according to the Missouri Secretary of State’s Office Twitter. That’s roughly 30 percent of the total number of people who voted across the state in 2016.
If people have requested and received an absentee or mail-in ballot and didn’t mail it in time or vote in person absentee, people should bring that ballot to the polling place on Election Day and it will be spoiled and exchanged for an in-person ballot, according to an FAQ on the clerk’s website.
People should also remember to leave their candidate apparel or campaign literature in the car or at home and avoid electioneering within 25 feet of the polling place.
To find the correct polling place, people can go online to https://greenecountymo.gov/county_clerk/election/precinct_information.php or call 417-868-4060 for more information.
Katie Kull covers local government for the News-Leader. Got a story to tell? Give her a call at 417-408-1025 or email her at firstname.lastname@example.org. You can also support local journalism at News-Leader.com/subscribe.