The Joplin Globe, Joplin, MO

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July 30, 2012

Address changes hinder election officials, pose problems for voters

About 10,000 voter registration cards returned to sender in Jasper County

JOPLIN, Mo. — Registration cards for more than 10 percent of Jasper County’s approximately 80,000  voters have been returned by the post office, County Clerk Bonnie Earl said Monday.

New cards, which must be sent to voters each two years, were mailed out earlier in July. But about 10,000 cards have been sent back because the addresses on them were no longer valid. That’s going to pose a problem for voters — and election officials — at the Aug. 7 primary election, said the clerk.

Election officials say many of the cards being returned were sent to residents in Joplin and Duquesne who moved after their homes were damaged or destroyed in the May 22, 2011, tornado but have not yet changed their address with election officials.

“We’re hoping that residents who have moved will come into our offices and change their addresses before the election,” Earl said. “Then voters would know for sure where they will vote, and it would cut down on confusion and delays at the polls.”

The process should move quickly for voters who use the new cards, because they include bar codes with voter information stored on iPads that will be used for the first time in the primary election. An election judge will use the iPads to scan the voter card to bring up the voter’s name and address, plus information on the which geographic district the voter is in for legislative and county races.

Voters still can use a driver’s license or old voter card, she said, adding “it just won’t go as fast.”

Earl said she expects that some voters who have moved and but have not changed their address may go back and vote at their previous polling place.

“If they haven’t changed their address, that’s where they’ll be registered,” she said. “In the best of all possible worlds, they’ll change their address before the election.”

Earl said she also expects some confusion from voters casting ballots in state legislative races, because boundaries changed earlier this year as a result of redistricting.

“So some people may be used to voting for one representative and could no longer see him on the ballot.” she said.

Voters can make address changes at offices of the county clerk in the Carthage courthouse and on the second floor of the county courts building at 6th Street and Pearl Avenue in Joplin. Offices are open from 8:30 a.m. to 4:30 p.m. during the week, and will be open from 9 a.m. to 1 p.m. on Saturday.

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