The Taney County Clerk’s Office is preparing for the 2020 General Election on Tuesday, Nov. 3, which included the recent approval of the purchase of 12,000 or more COVID Absentee Mail-In Envelopes.

On Monday, Sept. 14, the Taney County Commission approved a $15,200 bid recommendation from Elkins-Swyers Company in Springfield to purchase the envelopes. Taney County Deputy Clerk Wesley Shoemaker explained to commissioners that the COVID absentee mail-in units contain a total of two envelopes. 

“This one here is the one we send the absentees out in, and this here is inside it. On the back side of it, it has all the reasons why they can vote absentee,” said Shoemaker. “Due to the 2020 COVID, there’s new reasons to hold absentee. We had to order more ballots due to the fact that we got, I want to say, close to 1,000 right now in the office in applications and we’re expecting it to just keep going.”

Shoemaker added that they are purchasing 12,000 units, meaning there are technically 24,000 envelopes. Western Taney County Commissioner Brandon Williams followed up by asking Shoemaker how many absentee requests the clerk’s office normally receive.

“For a November election, about 1,000 total,” said Shoemaker. “We’re never anywhere near this amount at this time in the election process.”

Eastern Taney County Commissioner Sheila Wyatt also addressed Shoemaker and asked him to explain what the differences are between an absentee and mail-in ballot.

“Absentee, there is a reason to vote absentee. Depending on the reason why you’re voting absentee, you may or may not have to have it notarized,” said Shoemaker. “If you do a mail-in ballot, there is no reason. You don’t have to specify any reason for a mail-in ballot, but they all have to be notarized.”

After Shoemaker’s explanation Wyatt said that she wanted him to explain, because of what she had shared at the beginning of the meeting. During the commissioners’ remarks portion of the meeting Wyatt said that she was in a meeting where Missouri Secretary of State Jay Ashcroft spoke against mail-in voting. 

“I’m just going to quote one thing he said. I’ve got the whole tape of the meeting, but he said, ‘I don’t suggest anyone use mail-in.’ And he gave all these reasons as to why,” said Wyatt. “Then he suggests that you go to the polls and vote and tell all of those you know. If there’s some reason they physically can’t, vote absentee like normal. But if you want your vote counted, he suggests you go to the polls.” 

When asked by Williams if these envelopes could be used in future elections, Shoemaker explained they couldn’t because they are specific to 2020. Shoemaker then read the statement printed onto the back of each of the envelopes.

“For an election that occurs during year 2020 the voter has contracted or is in a high risk category of contracting or transmitting severe acute respiratory syndrome coronavirus to COVID-19,” said Shoemaker. “At risk voters are voters who are 65-years of age or older, live in a long-term care facility licensed under Chapter 198, have chronic lung disease or moderate to severe asthma, have a severe heart condition, are immune compromised, have diabetes, have chronic kidney disease and are undergoing dialysis or have liver disease.”

Shoemaker added that the envelopes use could be extended into 2021, if the 2020 COVID law is later amended to make it possible. 

The bid recommendation for the purchase of the envelopes was unanimously approved by the commission following a motion by Williams and second by Wyatt. Visit tanycounty.org for additional Taney County election information. 

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