Sep. 21—In celebration of National Voter Registration Day, the Minnie Hackney Community Service Center on Tuesday set up three sites across Joplin to help people register to vote and better understand their voting rights and the impact that they can make at the ballot box.
The observance, begun in 2012, was designed to mark an annual day focusing on registering Americans to exercise their most basic right — the right to vote. Nearly 4.7 million Americans have registered to vote on the designated day since the inaugural National Voter Registration Day.
This year marks the 10-year anniversary of the observance, and organizers hope to push the number to 5 million.
The Minnie Hackney Community Service Center, located at 110 S. Main St., is a 501(c)(4) organization dedicated to offering educational, civic and social programs in the Joplin community. Previously named the Negro Service Council of Joplin, the organization was formed in 1946 during segregation and the civil rights era.
As many as 1 in 4 eligible Americans are not registered to vote, and the ratio is even higher among youths and communities of color.
"It's really easy to vote, and it's a right that many other countries are not afforded," said Alisha Nunnelly, activities coordinator with the Minnie Hackney Community Service Center. "We should do our civic duty. Do your homework, and go out and vote."
The three voter registration events held throughout the day Tuesday were at the Minnie Hackney Community Service Center, the Billingsly Student Center at Missouri Southern State University and at Ewert Park.
The League of Women Voters of Greater Joplin Area partnered with the center to host a booth in the Lion's Den of MSSU's student center. The League of Women Voters is a nonpartisan organization dedicated to protecting the right to vote and has been heavily involved in voting advocacy in the United States for more than a century. The Joplin chapter has more than 30 women and men as members.
Patricia O'Roark, charter member of the Joplin chapter, said they've been helping people fill out forms to register to vote and checking their voter registration status.
"The students have filled out the applications, and we're going to mail it in," she said. "We've had a lot of students unsure if they're registered to vote. We're happy to see the younger generation getting involved, and the league has a fair number of young members."
Nunnelly said they also wanted to focus on young adults at MSSU who may not have yet been registered to vote.
"It's important for the youth to get out and vote," she said. "A lot of them just turned the voting age. The midterm elections are very important."
Max Watson, an 18-year-old freshman at MSSU majoring in computer science, stopped by the information booth at MSSU to register to vote. Watson said he aims to research the candidates more and vote in the upcoming midterm elections. He has been following the reversal of Roe v. Wade and believes that other groups' rights may be in jeopardy soon due to that decision.
Eli Goodwin, a 23-year-old junior at MSSU majoring in graphic design, said he has been registered to vote for three years and encourages other students to register. He's passionate about ongoing issues, including Roe v. Wade.
In order to participate in the general election in November, Missouri residents must register to vote by Oct. 12. The last day to apply for a mail-in absentee ballot is Nov. 1.
Missouri Gov. Mike Parson signed a bill into law this summer requiring all registered voters to show a government-issued photo ID in order to vote. The law took effect Aug. 28 and applies to the general election Nov. 8.
Voters who do not show photo identification can cast provisional ballots if they return later that day with a photo ID or if their signatures are verified by election officials.
Charlie Davis, Jasper County clerk, said there are approximately 69,000 registered voters in the county and about 10,000 inactive voters.
"We do a canvass every two years where we send out letters to all of the registered voters or the ones who have moved, and if they don't come back deliverable like the person doesn't live at that address or the person says they're no longer a Jasper County resident, we inactivate them," he said. "If they don't vote in two federal elections, then they are deleted."
Missouri does not require voters to affiliate with any political party when they register.
Davis said the most recent election, the primaries in August, posted a 24.89% county voter turnout.
Davis said he also predicts a good voter turnout in this upcoming general election because recreational marijuana and U.S. Senate candidates will be on the ballot. Under the new election law signed by Parson, registered voters can vote a no-excuse absentee ballot in person during the two weeks before the election.
Eligible voters can register to vote in person by visiting the Jasper County Courthouse in Carthage or going online to the Missouri secretary of state's website at https://www.sos.mo.gov.