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Politically Speaking: 2 County Clerks Chart Path For Missouri Elections Amid Coronavirus

Voting stations at Central Baptist Church in St. Louis on March 10, 2020.
Carolina Hidalgo | St. Louis Public Radio
Greene County Clerk Shane Schoeller and Boone County Clerk Brianna Lennon are the latest guests on the Politically Speaking podcast. The two election officials talked about Missouri's upcoming elections during the COVID-19 crisis.

On the latest episode of Politically Speaking, St. Louis Public Radio’s Jason Rosenbaum talks with Shane Schoeller, clerk of Greene County, and Brianna Lennon, clerk of Boone County, about how Missouri elections should proceed during the COVID-19 crisis.

Schoeller, a Republican, and Lennon, a Democrat, have been working on a public policy response together since the coronavirus outbreak came to the state. Their main objective is to make absentee ballots more available to people during a pandemic or emergency.

Here’s what Lennon and Schoeller talked about on the show:

  • They explained why they decided to work together after the coronavirus pandemic brought massive changes to daily life in the state. The officials put out a joint statement last month about some of the things that need to happen to create confidence in elections.
  • Both officials talked about why mailing ballots to every voter, a system that’s taken hold in places like Washington and Oregon, will present major logistical challenges for local election officials. That’s been a common suggestion across the country since COVID-19 hit.
  • Instead, Schoeller and Lennon are advocating the Legislature allow anyone to request an absentee ballot when there’s a pandemic or emergency. Currently, voters need to pick one of six reasons for voting absentee — including “incapacity or confinement due to illness or physical disability.” But there’s not consensus whether that language applied to a pandemic.
  • Schoeller and Lennon also responded to Gov. Mike Parson’s comments that the efforts to expand absentee balloting is a political issue.

Schoeller was elected Greene County clerk in 2014 and re-elected in 2018. Before he became that southwest Missouri county’s top elections official, Schoeller served in the Missouri House from 2007 to 2013. He narrowly lost the 2012 secretary of state contest to Jason Kander. 

Greene County Clerk Shane Schoeller and Boone County Clerk Brianna Lennon
Credit Provided photos
Greene County Clerk Shane Schoeller and Boone County Clerk Brianna Lennon

Lennon successfully ran for Boone County clerk in 2018, defeating Taylor Burks — a Republican who was appointed to the position after longtime Boone County Clerk Wendy Noren stepped down. Lennon worked in Kander’s administration as deputy director of elections and coordinator of the elections integrity unit. She also was an assistant attorney general in the consumer protection division of the Missouri attorney general’s office.

Follow Jason Rosenbaum on Twitter: @jrosenbaum

Follow Shane Schoeller on Twitter:@shaneschoeller

Follow Brianna Lennon on Twitter:@briannalennon

Music: “The Promise” by When in Rome

Jason is the politics correspondent for St. Louis Public Radio.