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By Anna Selle

The 2020 Primary Elections are coming up on Tuesday, August 4th in both Kansas and Missouri. Unlike the Presidential Primaries that happened this spring, the ballot on Tuesday will have a number of races and initiatives on both sides of the state line. 

Voting has changed a little bit since the last time we were at the polls this spring to account for safety during the COVID-19 pandemic. However, if you’re able, voting continues to be an important form of expression, especially during an important political year.

Voting Safely During COVID-19

Both Kansas and Missouri voters will be able to request to vote by mail in 2020. Typically voting by mail in Missouri is reserved for registered voters who are temporarily living elsewhere or out of town on election day, but because of concerns about safety during the COVID-19 pandemic mail-in voting has increased in importance this year. Kansas has “no excuse” absentee ballots for all elections, so this option is always available for voters.

While the window for registering to vote by mail has passed for both Kansas and Missouri for the primary on August 4th, you can still request a mail-in ballot for the 2020 General Election this November.

Kansans can return their absentee ballots in two ways: by dropping their ballot off in-person at any polling location in their county, or by mail. Voters are encouraged to return their mail-in ballots as early as possible, but ballots must be postmarked by the date of election and received within three days after the election.

In Missouri, all mailed-in ballots must be notarized before they’re submitted. There are a number of locations where you can get a ballot notarized for free, but it’s also worth asking around in your community to see if anyone you know is a notary. You might be surprised by how many people have completed the process to become authorized notaries, especially in response to this requirement. 

When mailing in a ballot, be sure to give yourself and the United States Postal Service enough time. USPS recommends planning for a two-week round trip for your ballot, in case it’s returned to you for any reason. 

That means if you do plan to vote by mail in November, you’ll want to submit your ballot by October 20th. For the August primary, you should still plan to mail in your ballot as quickly as possible. 

If you do choose to vote in-person, the CDC released a series of guidelines to follow. Like in any other indoor setting, wearing a face covering is the best way to help ensure your safety and the safety of others. Washing your hands or sanitizing with gel before and after voting will also help minimize spread. When possible, stay at least six feet away from others at the polling location. Your location might also have specific requirements to help enforce social distancing that you should follow. Minimizing the number of people in the polling location is also ideal, so consider arranging child care when you’re planning on voting. 

Know Your Ballot

We recently released a list of endorsements in Kansas and Missouri for the August primary. These civic leaders and community members are dedicated to protecting our rights to bodily autonomy and our access to essential reproductive and sexual health care, including abortion services. 

Before voting in-person or by mail, research the ballot and the candidates. You’re allowed to reference a written list or your phone while voting. It might feel unnatural to those of use who have grown up taking standardized tests, but when you’re in front of your ballot you have a right to research questions and ensure that you’re making an informed decision when casting a vote. 

Medicaid Expansion

Missourians have the opportunity to pass a Medicaid expansion bill in this primary election. A ‘Yes’ vote on Amendment 2 will help ensure that even more members of our community have access to the healthcare that they need and deserve as part of the Medicaid program. This measure has been endorsed by several public health organizations, hospital networks, and medical professionals, including Planned Parenthood Advocates in Missouri

This bill allows the state to seek maximum federal funding for Missouri’s Medicaid program. Missouri is one of only a handful of states that have not yet requested the maximum after funding was expanded in the Affordable Care Act. The COVID-19 pandemic has shown us how critical access to health care is to keep our communities and neighbors safe.

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