Missouri’s Republican Gov. Mike Parson said Missourians should stay home rather than vote in Tuesday’s local elections if they feel at risk because of the coronavirus.
“I hope people feel safe to go out and vote, but if they don’t, you know, the No. 1 thing — their safety should be No. 1,” Parson said a news conference Thursday. “If they don’t, then don’t go out and vote.”
The state’s top elections official, Republican Secretary of State Jay Ashcroft, said in a statement Friday that it will be safe to vote in person because of the efforts of local election authorities to implement safeguards against the spread of the coronavirus.
The governor moved local elections from April to June 2 in response to concerns about the safety of voting in person due to the coronavirus.
Parson said Thursday that the pandemic has underscored the importance of local elections, the Kansas City Star reported. The governor has left many decisions on how to control the spread of COVID-19, the disease caused by the coronavirus, to city and county officials.
“(Those elections) are important for what happens down the road, as we all see right now what elected officials on the local level are doing and how important it is to make sure you got the right people in the right place,” Parson said.
Parson said he hasn’t decided if he’ll vote in-person Tuesday or cast an absentee ballot, but he plans to vote if he can.
Missouri voters currently can request absentee ballots only if they provide an excuse for why they can’t vote in person. Illness is one option, but the law isn’t explicit on whether the illness excuse covers healthy voters concerned about catching or spreading COVID-19.
State lawmakers earlier this month sent Parson a bill that would allow people considered at-risk — those age 65 and older, living in a long-term care facility or with certain existing health problems — could vote absentee without needing to have their ballot notarized. Anyone else could cast a mail-in ballot but would need to get it notarized.
Parson hasn’t taken action on the bill yet. It would only apply to the August primary and November general election.