Livingston County Clerk Sherry Parks now expecting only about 20 percent turnout for annual school board, other voting June 2

By PAUL STURM, C-T Staff Writer

CHILLICOTHE, Mo. — Livingston County’s postponed April 202 elections will occur, at last, next Tuesday (June 2), deciding tax-related proposals for the city of Chillicothe and Chillicothe R-2 School District and settling or helping settle contested duels for membership on boards of education for a handful of public school districts. Chula and Utica also will vote on members of their community’s governing boards.

Procedurally, the current easing of some COVID-19- prompted restrictions and guidelines and the low known impact of the novel coronavirus on county residents should allow the delayed vote to occur with limited negative impact. However, county clerk Sherry Parks, chief elections officer for the county, still will take some steps to minimize any risk even further.

“We will still practice ‘social distancing’” at polling places, she told the C-T. In addition, efforts to keep voting equipment and paraphernalia sanitized throughout voting hours will be undertaken and hand sanitizer will be available on site for voters to utilize.

Only citizens who were eligible by the pre-April registration date deadline can cast ballots Tuesday, the clerk reminds.

Voters with a legitimate reason for being unable to vote in person during Tuesday’s 6 a.m. to 7 p.m. polling hours still can absentee in person the rest of this business week during normal clerk's office hours, during special absentee voting hours (8:30 a.m. to 12:30 p.m.) this Saturday (May 30), or next Monday until the 5 p.m. close of business at the clerk’s office on the second floor of the Livingston County Courthouse in Chillicothe.

“We’ve had a small, steady stream” of absentee voters leading up to the election, Parks reported Wednesday.

The pace has been slow enough, however, that she has downgraded her overall turnout projection for the election to closer to 20 percent of eligible voters from a previous 30 percent.

In anticipation of the election, Parks and her staff conducted the customary advance testing of the county’s vote-tabulation equipment May 20, observed by representatives of the Republican and Democratic parties. As usual, the test came off without a hitch, she reported.

“We pre-test all of our equipment and make sure it matches a ‘test deck’ that was created,” Parks reviewed for the C-T. “Then, we do a post-(election) test.

“We also have an election judge stand next to the (scanning) machine (throughout voting hours at each polling site) to make sure nobody tampers with it.”

While occasional unsubstantiated allegations of significant election irregularities or fraud or suggestions that vote counts somehow are vulnerable to cyber-compromise are made, Parks reassures the voting public that, factually, such claims are spurious.

“In Missouri, none of our election equipment has internet capability, except for the voter registration database, and it has plenty of security,” she stated.

“As far as the election equipment used in the county on election day and the tabulating machine – which is a laptop (computer) that we use in the evening when they get back with the results, none of those has internet capability (either), so there’s nothing that can be tampered with in that regard.”

As for the ballot-reading machines used at the polls, Parks details, “The ballots get scanned as they go through the equipment (at the polling place), but there’s nothing – I want to be this to be clear – identifying which ballot goes with which voter. There’s no attachment of the voter’s name on the precinct roster to the ballot itself. They’re not numbered or identifiable to the specific voter.

“When they go through the machine, they are scanned and stored (electronically), along with (the clerk’s office) storing the paper ballot.”

The actual paper ballots marked by Livingston County voters are saved for 22 months as a verifiable backup to the electronically-tabulated results, the clerk adds.