I will admit that, in the midst of a global health pandemic that appears to be resurging in Missouri, as well as the protest movement for racial justice, it can be easy to lose focus on things that would otherwise command our attention.
Elections, especially primary elections that tend to have lower turnout anyway, can certainly be one of those things. But there is a big reason not to lose focus about this August election. Thanks to the efforts of thousands of volunteers, Missouri will get a chance to join 37 other states that have expanded their Medicaid programs. All we need to do is vote YES on Amendment 2 on August 4th.
For many of us, this potential feels like the culmination of over a decade of organizing. Medicaid expansion represents the long-delayed implementation of the Affordable Care Act in Missouri. Experts estimate expansion will provide over 230,000 Missourians access to health insurance, while generating more than a billion dollars of economic activity in our state.
While those numbers are impressive, I find myself focused on a microlevel as August approaches.
As a community organizer, I have seen and felt the pain caused by our state’s failure to act sooner. I can name those that should be with us, but aren’t because our health care system fails to live up to its full potential. Melanie Shouse, Catie Shinn, Myrna de los Santos: these are activists whom I have stood with as we fought for a more complete health care system. It is my memories of them that I focus upon as we move toward the election.
Myrna was a fast food worker who made too much to qualify for Medicaid in Missouri, but too little to afford insurance on the marketplace. She was in the Medicaid gap, and it cost her her life at age 49.
Catie Shinn was an eligibility specialist for the state of Missouri; she helped process applications for Medicaid because she knew the life-saving implications it had for her clients. She worked until she physically couldn’t anymore and succumbed to cancer.
Melanie Shouse was a tireless advocate who credited Medicaid with extending her life after she was diagnosed with breast cancer. Upon hearing news of her passing, then President Obama remarked on her work “She was fighting that whole time … because she understood that there were others coming behind her who were going to find themselves in the same situation and she didn’t want somebody else going through that same thing.”
This August 4th, I will have a chance to honor them by helping complete their work and voting yes on Amendment 2.
Before we talk about how to vote, we must also discuss registration. To vote yes on Amendment 2 in August, you must be registered to vote in Missouri by July 8. Register right here, right now.
Unfortunately, Missouri does not offer an easy, no-excuse absentee voting system. The legislature made temporary strides in this direction in May, but the system is not as straightforward as it should be. But there are three ways you are able to cast your ballot this August, and I encourage everyone to make a plan for the way you feel most comfortable.
- You may vote in person. There will likely be changes in polling places, so please check GoVoteMissouri.com to stay current on those changes.
- You may be able to vote in person ahead of time. If you meet one of the seven acceptable excuses to vote absentee in Missouri, you may vote ahead of time at your local County Clerk or Board of Election office. Those excuses include if you are at high risk from COVID 19 defined as anyone 65 or older or with an immunocompromised condition); if you expect to be confined due to illness on August 4th; if you will be out of your home county on August 4th, or several other less common reasons (you can find these on the Secretary of State website).
- You will be able to vote by mail. Anyone who meets the criteria for absentee voting may also do that process through the mail and anyone who doesn’t meet those criteria may request a mail-in ballot. Mail-in ballots will require notarization. It is important to note that mail-in ballots must be returned by the mail and must be RECEIVED (not postmarked) by election day.
If you have questions about these processes, the Missouri Voter Protection Coalition set up a toll-free number to help you, 1-866-Our-Vote.
A colleague said to me that August 4th is a chance to claim our victory. For Melanie, Catie, Myrna, and thousands of others who suffer needlessly, I intend to. Join me.
Richard von Glahn serves as the policy director of Missouri Jobs with Justice, a statewide coalition of over 100 organizations and thousands of individuals who join together to build transformative power for economic, social, and racial justice. You can follow Jobs with Justice on Twitter, Instagram, or Facebook.