The Skeptical Cardiologist

I Mailed In My Ballot: The Unbearable Nonstickiness of Voting

The skeptical cardiologist dropped his ballot into one of the drive-by mailboxes outside the Clayton post office yesterday with a sense of relief.

My first ever attempt at absentee voting was not a simple process. What follows is a guide for those who are contemplating mail-in or absentee voting (which is most applicable to Missouri residents and envelope lickers.)

Step One: Determine Eligibility and Need for Notary

First, about a month ago, I determined that I didn’t want to stand in (potentially long) lines on election day in (potentially close) proximity to my fellow (potentially poorly) masked citizens of University City, Missouri.

Fortunately, Missouri allows everyone to vote by mail in 2020. Unfortunately, for most this will require their ballot to be notarized.

The two exceptions to this are:

  1. Incapacitated or confined due to sickness or disability, including caring for a person who is incapacitated or confined due to sickness or disability

2. For an election that occurs during the year 2020, the voter has contracted or is in an at-risk category for contracting or transmitting severe acute respiratory syndrome coronavirus 2 (COVID-19).

I qualify under the second exception because “Voters who are considered at-risk for contracting or transmitting COVID-19 are those who”

It’s unclear to me if there is any realistic way for Missouri to check on any of the factors they consider to put a voter “at-risk for contracting or transmitting COVID-19” other than by age (which is how I qualify.) What qualifies as a “serious heart condition?” What qualifies as diabetes?

In any event, please scrutinize closely this infographic which unravels the mysterious and confusing path to having your vote be counted.

Importantly, note that you must apply for the ballot by 10/21 which is 10 days from today!

Second Step: Get a Ballot Mailed To You

My second step, having determined that I was eligible for the mail-in ballot (without notary signature) was to go online to the St. Louis County website and fill out this form which can be emailed, faxed, hand-delivered to the St. Louis County Board of Electors office in St. Ann, Missouri.

Submit the request to your local election office. You should request your ballot as far in advance of the election as possible. The deadline to request a ballot by mail is (received by) 5:00 p.m. on Wednesday, October 21, 2020.

I filled mine out online, saved it as a PDF, signed it with my digital signature, and emailed it. About two weeks ago the requested ballot arrived.

Third Step: Fill Out and Mail Your Ballot As Soon As Possible and Beware of Faulty Sealant

Filling out the ballot seemed relatively straightforward. I put it in the accompanying envelope. I signed my name (without Notary Seal) and checked off the seventh (COVID-19) criterion which exempted me from the Notary and drove to the Clayton Post office.

I waited until the last minute to seal the envelope and proceeded to lick it and (presumably) seal it while stopped at the mailbox. It’s been a while since I’ve licked an envelope but I have licked hundreds if not thousands during preceding decades without problems.

I was unaware of the state of Washington’s instructions to voters in March not to lick envelopes:

Thus far I believe I have dodged contracting COVID-19 from the envelope (and hopefully not transmitting it) but unfortunately the envelope did not even approximate sealing properly. I reevaluated the amount of moisture I had applied and tried adding more to no avail.

I was a victim of faulty envelope glue! I began to suspect a conspiracy aimed at disenfranchising envelope lickers like me.

I called the Board of Electors and informed of this potentially catastrophic event but they seem nonplussed. They recommended I scotch tape the envelope shut and mail it in which I did the next day having exhausted my patience with ballots for that day.

I am not alone with nonsticking ballot envelope problems. An election in Morris, NJ last year was influenced by faulty sealant on mail-in ballot envelopes as 42 ballots were disqualified because they weren’t properly sealed according to the New Jersey Globe. And the Austrian government in 2016 was forced to rerun the presidential election after voters complained of envelopes with a faulty “sealing mechanism.”

Attached to my ballot was a tear-off portion which (theoretically) will allow me to “Track this ballot” using the ID number or a bar code. The USPS recommends I allow 7-10 days for the return of the ballot and when it reaches its destination I presume this will allow me to verify receipt.

I’m sure I don’t need to emphasize how important it is that everyone try to exercise their right to vote on November 3. Hopefully, everyone who wants to vote will be able to and won’t be disenfranchised by faulty envelope adhesives.

Let’s also hope that our election boards have not purchased cheap envelopes in the manner of George Costanza.

Enfranchisingly Yours,


My next door neighboor has had herself certified as a Notary in order to facilitate the process of absentee voting. She does it for free. If you need a no charge Notary let me know.

N.B. In order to be counted, mail-in ballots must be received by the election authority at or before the time fixed by law for the closing of the polls on Election Day (7:00 p.m.).

N.B. Each state has its own rules for absentee mail-in voting. See here for your state’s rules.

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