Municipal elections in Missouri will be held June 2 instead of the regular election date of April 7, Gov. Mike Parson ordered Wednesday morning as part of the state’s effort to control the spread of the coronavirus.
The order directs local election authorities to maintain some dates for the election process, so voter registration, which closed March 11, will not be re-opened.
And the date for declaring write-in candidacies will remain March 27 and only people who will be 18 or older by April 7 will be allowed to vote.
But other deadlines will be shifted closer to the election, with the last day to apply for an absentee ballot set at May 20. The deadline for casting in-person absentee ballots will be June 1 and military personnel must apply for a mail-in ballot by May 29.
The action comes as a large group of county clerks, including Boone County Clerk Brianna Lennon, sought a court order mandating the delay.
"It is exactly what we petitioned the court for and it extends the absentee deadline to May 20," Lennon said in an interview.
In a news release issued Wednesday, Lennon said polling place assignments will be decided in the weeks before election day.
"For the health and safety of Boone County voters, we encourage voters to consider absentee voting in advance of the municipal election," Lennon said.
The decisions on polling places requires making sure the locations set for April 7 are available on June 2, she said.
Her office is open for in-person absentee balloting, she said, adding that voters should, if possible, use the online resources of her office to request absentee ballots and obtain other services.
Ballots already printed for the April 7 election may be used at the postponed date of June 2, the order states.
The June 2 election date should work because it allows plenty of time for absentee voting, Lennon said. She will be working with other clerks to enact procedures that will help keep people safe in the August and November elections, she said.
"My preference is for any reform that allows voters to be able to cast a ballot without having to sacrifice their safety and maintaining the public health," Lennon said.
The election order comes as Missouri recorded its first death in Boone County tied to COVID-19, the disease that emerged last year causing respiratory infections that can develop into pneumonia. Worldwide, about 4 percent of the 214,000 people infected have died.
Parson has declared a state of emergency and more than 430 of Missouri’s 555 public school districts and charter schools have closed. The state’s 13 casinos closed at midnight Tuesday and must remain closed until at least March 31.
Columbia is under a state of emergency as well and the city has banned gatherings of more than 50 people.
"Given the growing concern surrounding COVID-19 and the large number of people elections attract, postponing Missouri’s municipal elections is a necessary step to help combat the spread of the virus and protect the health and safety of Missouri voters," Parson said in a news release. "Postponing an election is not easy, but we are all in this together."
In a statement, Missouri Secretary of State Jay Ashcroft thanked Parson for the action.
"Missouri has 116 separate election authorities, almost all who are elected in their own right, and we have come together to help protect Missouri voters," Ashcroft said. "These are difficult times, but I am grateful for how we have responded, worked together and come to a resolution that helps every single Missouri voter."
The order directs county clerks to post information on websites and issue notices about the postponement.