When I was in Boy Scouts, I learned that there were lots of “rights” and “duties” that come with being a U.S. citizen. Interestingly, there was one activity that was listed as both a right and a duty: voting. In presidential election years, there is a heightened interest in voting, and I assume that 2020 will be no different. At MCPL, one of our strategic priorities is to “connect citizens to innovative services and resources that expand opportunity and build community.” I believe that participating in elections and voting are certainly part of building community! So, how do libraries help people vote?
Many members of our Library staff are deputized to register people to vote and to help voters turn in change-of-address forms. We do have to follow the deadlines set by the election boards, and our deputies typically can only register people for the county where the Library building is located.
In addition, many MCPL locations serve as polling places. We do this at the request of local election boards. My understanding is that because libraries meet ADA standards and are generally well known in the community, election boards like to use our locations. If you are supposed to vote at the Library, your election board will let you know. You can also search for your polling place on the Missouri Secretary of State’s website.
Due to the pandemic, people in Missouri can vote by mail. But how does this work? Do you need to do anything special? What if you want to vote in person? The Missouri Secretary of State’s website has information on this as well, and below is a table that explains the different methods for voting:
This year, with so many people taking advantage of mail-in voting, there will be lots of people needing notary services. Realizing this, MCPL has initiated a trial notary service. Our staff cannot and will not help you fill out your ballot. But we can notarize the envelope to facilitate voting by mail. For now, MCPL notary services will only support mail-in voting. Learn more about MCPL’s voter services here.
Of course, before you vote, you need to understand the issues on the ballot! The public library has always been a great resource to read up on the issues. You can access the latest issues of many online magazines and newspapers with your Library card. In addition, MCPL also works with the League of Women Voters to make their voting guide available. This allows you to see exactly what will be on your ballot, and you can even use their personalized ballot tool to make your selections ahead of time and save, send, or print a copy to make voting even easier when you get to the polls.
Our goal is not for you to vote one way or another—it’s to help you take advantage of your right and duty to vote!
Steven V. Potter
MCPL Director and CEO