Lines could be longer than normal, and slower than normal, when voters turn out at the polls on Tuesday.
Part of that can be attributed to the unusual interest in this midterm election. Lines also may move slowly because of the number of ballot questions — some of them confusing — to be decided.
Though it doesn’t compare to a presidential election, Marilyn Baugh, Jasper County clerk, said her offices are seeing considerably more interest than normal for a midterm election.
The race between incumbent U.S. Sen. Claire McCaskill and challenger Joshua Hawley is attracting more attention from voters, she said, along with the ballot measures.
The seven measures, including proposed constitutional amendments, could give voters pause if they are not familiar with them before they step up to mark their ballots.
“People are coming by our offices and picking up sample ballots to study,” Baugh said. “We also have sample ballots on our website at jaspercounty.org, along with the plain language explanation of the ballot measures.”
Another reason lines might be long or slow is that, in Missouri, most voting is limited to Election Day.
Unlike many other states, Missouri does not have early voting. The state does have absentee voting for six weeks before the election, but that is supposed to be limited to those who have one of several excuses to prevent them from voting on Election Day.
Most states have early voting, allowing voters to cast ballots without having to claim an excuse. Some states have generous early voting periods, such as Minnesota at 46 days, New Jersey at 45, and Montana and Nebraska at 30 days, according to vote.org.
Kansas allows early voting for several weeks before the election, and Oklahoma, five days.
Casting a ballot on Election Day also can be challenging for voters who can’t find time to make it to the polls before or after work.
About 44 percent of all employers will give workers time off to vote, according to the Society for Human Resource Management. Some states also require employers to give workers some time off to vote.
To avoid a work conflict, many countries hold their general elections on Saturdays.
In 2001, a commission on election reform chaired by former Presidents Jimmy Carter and Gerald Ford suggested declaring general election day as a national holiday. Work by the commission was cited in a study of states’ voting systems recently released by the political science department at Northern Illinois University.
Scot Schraufnagel, department chair, said election results are being shaped by states’ laws that make it easier — or harder — to vote.
The study focused on states’ election laws to rank each state on the time and effort it took to vote in presidential election years from 1996 to 2016. Requirements in areas such as voter registration restrictions and deadlines, voter ID laws, early voting and mail-in ballots were studied to determine their impact on voting in each state.
The study ranked differences in voter registration as the most important factor, noting automatic voter registration is the norm in much of Europe and Latin America. Oregon implemented the practice in 2016 and a dozen more states have followed since, according to the Brennan Center for Justice, which tracks states’ voting systems.
“The ballot box is the central democratic institution,” Schraufnagel said. “Voting and elections are key to democracy. One of the things that define the competency of an electoral system and the legitimacy of governing institutions is the ease in which you can vote.”
According to the study, Oregon took top honors for making it easier to vote, followed by Colorado, California and Iowa. Voters faced the most inconveniences on the way to the ballot box in Mississippi, followed by Virginia, Tennessee and Indiana.
Susan Redden is a former reporter for The Joplin Globe.