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The latest news from every corner of the state, including policy emerging from Missouri's capitol.

Missouri Voter Registrations Soar In 2020; Here’s How To Sign Up Before Wednesday Deadline

File photo | Carolina Hidalgo | St. Louis Public Radio

Missourians have until this Wednesday, Oct. 7, to register to vote in the November election.

State residents who are eligible to vote but haven’t registered yet can apply online or print out an application from the Missouri Secretary of State’s website. Mailed applications must be postmarked by Oct. 7. People can also register in person at local election authority offices, public libraries and Department of Motor Vehicles locations.

The deadline approaches during a wave of national and regional campaigns to mobilize voters that has included AARP printing special editions of its magazines for senior citizens and NFL players launching registration drives in their communities.

Election authorities in Missouri say the campaigns have been successful in motivating people to register to vote ahead of the presidential election in November. As of Friday, about 133,000 more Missourians had registered to vote than around that time in 2016, according to data from the Secretary of State’s office.

The largest gains in the St. Louis region have been in St. Charles and Jefferson counties. In Jefferson County, registered voters have increased by more than 10,000 compared to this point about four years ago. Between former President Barack Obama's last election in 2012 and President Donald Trump's election in 2016, the county saw an increase of just 388 voters by early October 2016.

“Every time you turn on the TV now it's talking about going and registering to vote,” said Jefferson County Clerk Ken Waller. “You're seeing an all-out blitz, not only by the media, but by entities that are just wanting to make sure that people get out and exercise the right to vote.”

St. Charles Election Authority Kurt Bahr said he expects around 20,000 more people to register this election than in 2016. As of Friday, the county had registered more than 15,000 more voters than around that time four years ago.

Voter rolls in the region’s more urban and suburban areas have seen less dramatic growth than in the exurb counties of Jefferson and St. Charles counties. St. Louis is up about 3,400 registered voters, and St. Louis County, the most populous in the state, is down more than 8,000 registered voters compared to roughly the same point during the 2016 campaign.

The League of Women Voters in St. Louis has organized more than 200 voter registration events in the region since June. That’s more than in 2016, according to Nancy Miller, the organization’s co-president.

The increase is, in part, due to timing, Miller said. Events promoting participation in the U.S. Census count this year included registering voters. But she said the expansion was also in response to a national sense of urgency surrounding this election, which comes in a year when more than 200,000 Americans have died of COVID-19, cities saw months of protests over police violence against Black people, and wildfires torched thousands of acres in the West.

“There have been so many issue-oriented things that have occurred, that have just made people want something else,” Miller said.

The deadline to apply to vote by absentee or mail-in ballots in Missouri is 5 p.m. Oct. 21. Election authorities are encouraging people to send their ballots no later than Oct. 27 in order to ensure the ballot is received in time.

The deadline to register to vote in Illinois is Oct. 6 if registering by mail. Residents can register online until Oct. 18. The state also has a grace period, when people can register to vote at their local election authority up until Election Day, but they must vote at the same time that they register.

Follow Kayla on Twitter: @_kayladrake

Copyright 2020 St. Louis Public Radio

Kayla Drake
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