Pettis Co. Clerk: 1,200 unfilled absentee ballots missing; no voters impacted
SEDALIA - Pettis County Clerk Nick La Strada confirmed that at least 1,200 blank absentee ballots were reported missing Wednesday morning.
La Strada said the ballots were in the custody of the US Postal Service before going missing. They were on the way to voters and hadn't been filled out.
"We've mailed out replacements," La Strada said. "Nobody was disenfranchised."
The ballots were delivered to the Post Office in Sedalia on Monday, Sept. 21. Absentee voting in Pettis County began on Sept. 22.
In the event that the missing ballots are found, La Strada said that Pettis County has the systems in place to prevent multiple ballots being counted for one voter.
"If you find those ballots, you hold those ballots,' La Strada said. "You talk to us."
La Strada said that the county's voter registration system allows for only one envelope, which includes a completed ballot and a signed affidavit, to be submitted per voter.
"If we receive two [ballots] the other one will be rejected," La Strada said.
La Strada also said that he will be matching the signatures on ballots and signed affidavits with those in the voter registration system.
"We want to continue to be transparent in this election," La Strada said.
La Strada said ballots began arriving back to the county's Election Office on Sept. 24, though these were from different batches.
"We received two ballots back, so that made us feel pretty good," La Strada said.
La Strada became suspicious after voters sent him messages that they were not receiving their ballots.
"I was explaining to voters, just give it a little bit of time, it's gonna get there," La Strada said.
But the messages kept rolling in.
"I was worrisome," La Strada said. "Something was going on, I just couldn't quite put my finger on it."
On Sunday, La Strada contacted the Sedalia Post Office, then met with officials at the Post Office on Monday morning, Sept. 28.
La Strada and Postmaster Roger Bounds spoke with mail deliverers to figure out if any of them had delivered a ballot.
"It ended up coming out to be about 70 ballots [delivered]," La Strada said. "Which would be about right, because we had different batches."
After Bounds contacted mail distribution centers in Columbia and St. Louis, it was confirmed that the 1,200 ballots were missing.
On Tuesday, Sept. 29, the Pettis County Election Office put together 1,200 replacement ballots, and delivered them to the Post Office that same day.
"We turned around within 24 hours," La Strada said. "I want these ballots to be expedited and get to the voters immediately today."
La Strada said that voters are already receiving their ballot.
La Strada said that this is the only case of mass ballot disappearance that has occurred across the state.
(Editor's note: This story has been updated to more clearly add context that no voters were affected and explain the election integrity measures in place.)