The 2013 session has come and gone, and Missouri still has no law allowing advance voting. According to one 2012 tally, 32 of the 50 states have a system that allows voters to cast ballots prior to Election Day. Kansas is one of those 32 states. But not Missouri, although both Democratic and Republican secretaries of state, who serve as the state’s chief elections officer, have pushed for it in the last decade.
Articles about voting issues in Missouri.
A new seven-page report issued by Missouri Secretary of State Jason Kander labels two voter ID bills as some of the strictest in the nation if they pass. Only Indiana would compare to Missouri’s voter IDlaw if the GOP-led General Assembly passes and approves the bill. The Huffington Post interviewed Kander Friday. The Democrat said even though he objects to law, he would follow its guidelines. House Bills 48 and 216 would limit the types of identification shown at polling places to just five types, all of which require a photograph to identify the person. A non-expired Missouri driver’s license, non-driver’s identification, U.S. passport, military ID or an official ID from Missouri or the federal government with a name, photo and expiration date would be allowed. The bills eschew all forms of non-photo ID currently allowed in Missouri. There are a dozen forms of identification allowed to be brought to the polls now, including a student ID, voter ID card and utility bills.
The legislature is moving to make it easier for Missourians overseas to vote in state elections. The sponsoring senator is his own example. Senator Will Kraus of Lee’s Summit defended our right to vote by flying Army helicopters in Iraq and 2003 and 2004. But when he wanted to vote, he had to start applying for his absentee ballot about nine weeks before the election. He says he downloaded the application off the internet but then had to use regular mail to send it in-a process that took two to three weeks. It took about that long to get the ballot and about that long to send it in in time to be counted.
Electronic voting machines could be on their way out in Missouri. A bill before the Missouri Senate wants to go back to all-paper ballots, with the legislation’s sponsor saying there have seen numerous reports of the machines miscounting and malfunctioning. In Kansas City, Elections Board Director Shelley McThomas says most folks here already vote on paper, but it could mean problems in larger elections. “When we use our satellite absentee voting polls, when we set those up, we always use the touch-screen machines because a voter can come in from any part of the city and vote on that machine,” says McThomas.
A Missouri Senate panel is considering a measure to phase out electronic voting machines. (The voting measure is SB375) The committee heard testimony Monday from some former poll workers who say the machines now used in Missouri malfunction and miscount votes. The legislation would require voters to use either paper ballots or certain ballot-marking devices to help people with disabilities. An electronic machine could still be used if it has an independent paper record of votes cast on the device.
The push for in-person, early voting in Missouri is getting a bipartisan push, but it remains to be seen whether the proposal will gain enough traction to make it through the Legislature this year. Voters in nearly all of the states that surround Missouri are able to cast their ballots, in person, weeks before Election Day, without swearing to an excuse as to why they can’t vote on Election Day. Secretary of State Jason Kander, a Democrat from Kansas City, said the fact that someone across the state border in Kansas, for example, has more time to vote than someone on the Missouri side has drawn the public’s attention to the issue. “Whether it’s Republicans, Democrats, rural voters, urban voters — everybody wants to see us get this done,” he said.
After a charged debate last month in the Missouri House of Representatives over voter photo identification, the topic is back, this time in the Senate. On Monday, the Senate Elections committee took up legislation passed by the House in February. The legislation — one bill that puts photo identification requirements to a vote of the people and another that implements the requirements if Missouri approves them — had a public hearing that was less tense than earlier discussion in the House. Both supporters and opponents acknowledged that arguments on all sides had already been aired, even as they reiterated them. “Fundamental in the whole concept of photo ID is that photo identification is sort of the basis of what we do in modern society,” Rep. Stanley Cox, R-Sedalia, told the committee. Cox has been a champion in the House for a photo requirement.
A special panel created by Secretary of State Jason Kander is recommending that Missouri allow early voting and expand absentee voting by mail. The bipartisan commission on Thursday released its recommendations for overhauling Missouri’s voting laws. Missouri now allows people to vote by mail only if they meet certain conditions, such as a disability or absence from their district on Election Day. The commission says voters should be allowed to mail their ballots without such restrictions.
St. Charles County voters will cast ballots in new voting machines when they go to the polls in April 2014. The County Council voted 6-1 Monday night to spend $1 million for 130 optical scan and 130 disability-capable voting machines from Unisyn Voting Solutions Inc. County Elections Director Rich Chrismer said he expects the new machines to be delivered by June and that they should last eight to 10 years. “I’m happy for the voters because I didn’t trust the machines we had,” Chrismer said Wednesday. Chrismer has been trying to convince the council for the past year that the machines used during the last seven years are at the end of their life cycle and need to be replaced to avoid trouble at the polls. The council voted 4-1 in February 2012 to buy new machines for $1.2 million, but County Executive Steve Ehlmann vetoed that bill because only one bid had been received, and the council later withdrew the bill.
Even if photo voter I.D. legislation finally passes in the Missouri Legislature this session there may still be court challenges at the federal level. That, from professor of Constitutional Law at Washington University, Greg Magarian. Lawmakers in Jefferson City are currently working on a Voter I.D. law that would require a constitutional amendment and be approved by voters. “That would clear Missouri courts” says Professor Magarian but there would still be questions that the U.S. Supreme Court might raise. “How easy or difficult is it to get a necessary form of I.D., what findings are there about how many people this would effectively block out from voting.” said professor Magarian.