The first election of 2020 in Missouri is less than three months away, which means it’s the perfect time for voters to check their registration and update their name or address with their local election official.
Addresses are crucial to election integrity for two important reasons:
• First, a voter’s address determines what races and issues he'll see on the ballot. An incorrect address could result in a voter casting an incorrect ballot and potentially change the outcome of a close race.
• Second, because every address is assigned to a specific polling place, a voter may inadvertently go to the wrong polling place if his address is out-of-date.
Federal and state law require county clerks and election boards to conduct a canvass of registered voters every two years to help ensure the voter roll reflects every voter’s most current address.
In Missouri, the first step in the canvass is sending a piece of nonforwardable mail (usually a voter identification card) to voters at the address listed on their voter record. If that card bounces back to the elections office — adorned with a yellow return to sender sticker — the office notes that that voter had returned mail.
Next, the office sends out forwardable confirmation notices to these voters. The notice tells the voter that because of the returned mail, it appears that the address on his voter record is inaccurate and asks his to contact the local election office with an updated address or to confirm that the address on file is actually a good one.
A voter who has received a notice but has not replied to the office, will still be in the poll book on Election Day and can vote once he confirms or update his address. In Missouri, these voters are defined as inactive, but they are very much still eligible voters. “Inactive voter” is in many respects a misleading term because it has nothing to do with whether a person actually votes. Missouri voters can never be made inactive or removed from the roll just by not voting. In fact, the only way to be removed from the voter roll through a canvass is if a voter is sent these two mailings, never updates his address and doesn’t vote in the next two general elections.
For example, if a voter’s identification card for the March 10, 2020, presidential preference primary bounces back to the clerk’s office, the office will send a confirmation notice to that voter and mark him as “inactive.” The voter can still vote and appears in the poll book on Election Day. However, if the voter doesn’t vote in both the Nov. 3, 2020, and Nov. 8, 2022, general elections (and hasn’t contacted his local elections office to update or confirm his address), then federal law states that he is to be removed from the roll after the November 2022 election.
We encourage voters to be engaged by checking their voter records to make sure their names and addresses are accurate before each election and to visit canIvote.org for more information on how to reach your local election official.
Every eligible voter has the right to make his voice heard in our elections, and we want everyone to get out and vote in 2020.
Shane Schoeller is the Greene County clerk. Brianna Lennon is the Boone County clerk.