Missouri Secretary of State wants ban on helping voters fix absentee ballot mistakes | Jonathan Shorman/The Kansas City Star

Missouri Secretary of State Jay Ashcroft wants the General Assembly to ban local election workers from helping voters correct mistakes on absentee ballots, a change that could keep some votes from being counted. The request adds to a growing list of measures advanced by Republicans to alter the state’s election laws, including restoring rules requiring voters to show a photo ID and making it harder to amend the state constitution through ballot measures. Lawmakers failed to pass most proposals earlier this year, but proponents are signaling they will try again in 2022. The proposals come as GOP legislators indulge lingering conspiracy theories surrounding the 2020 presidential election. Missouri Republicans are also keen on curbing Democrats’ success at passing progressive policies through statewide votes. Medicaid expansion, medical marijuana and minimum wage increases have all been approved by voters in recent years. “We would like to see legislation that does not allow for curing of absentee ballots,” Deputy Secretary of State Trish Vincent told the House Elections Committee last week, ‘curing’ being a common term for fixing errors.

Full Article: Top MO elections official: ban absentee ballot ‘curing’ | The Kansas City Star

Missouri elections hearing dominated by conspiracies, misinformation | Galen Bacharier/Springfield News-Leader

A meeting of a Missouri House elections committee Tuesday was dominated by conspiracy and misinformation, as lawmakers heard hours of testimony about election security that often had little to no basis in truth. Several people speaking to the panel also recommended changes to the Show-Me State’s ballot initiative process, recommending that it be more difficult for voters to directly amend the state’s constitution or pass laws. The bulk of false information surrounding elections came from those who attended or followed a conference in South Dakota hosted by My Pillow CEO Mike Lindell. Lindell, who has earned a national reputation as a close ally to former President Donald Trump, said he would reveal proof at the conference that showed the November 2020 election was fraudulent — but he and his theories have been widely discredited by both election and cybersecurity experts. Rep. Ann Kelley, a Lamar Republican, testified in front of the committee, telling them she attended Lindell’s conference and that there was an urgent need to reinforce security around Missouri’s elections. Kelley was invited to speak by a member of the committee and “encouraged to bring what she learned” from the conference by chairman Rep. Dan Shaul, an Imperial Republican. County clerks around the state and Missouri Secretary of State Jay Ashcroft have said that the Show-Me State’s 2020 elections took place securely, and there were no widespread instances of voter fraud. Trish Vincent, who serves as Ashcroft’s chief of staff, told the committee the state has “a very secure system” with “layers of security.”

Full Article: Missouri elections hearing dominated by conspiracies, misinformation

As Missouri Senate contenders peddle conspiracies, what’s the damage to democracy? | Bryan Lowry and Jonathan Shorman/The Kansas City Star

One Republican candidate in Missouri’s Senate race skipped the state party’s annual convention last week and traveled instead to Arizona, where he toured the site of a discredited 2020 election audit and falsely claimed it could lead to decertification of the results. Another contender recently announced a campaign event in the St. Louis suburbs with a former Trump administration official beloved by supporters of QAnon. Former Missouri Gov. Eric Greitens and St. Louis lawyer Mark McCloskey are making once fringe positions key pieces of their message to voters as they vie for the GOP nomination to replace retiring Republican Sen. Roy Blunt. It’s a strategy being pursued by Republican candidates in races across the country ahead of 2022, as rhetoric from those seeking to undermine the legitimacy of President Joe Biden’s decisive victory over former President Donald Trump continues to escalate. “There’s this weaponization and mainstreaming of disinformation,” said Daniel Weiner, deputy director of election reform at New York University’s Brennan Center for Justice. “There’s a troubling number of folks who are willing to traffic in this misinformation. It doesn’t mean it’s overtaken either party, but it’s become far too mainstream for comfort.” Election experts warn that as the ongoing misinformation campaign about the 2020 election continues to find a firm foothold within a faction of the Republican Party, it poses a long-term threat to the institution of democracy.

Full Article: As Missouri Senate contenders peddle conspiracies, what’s the damage to democracy?

Missouri: GOP Leaders Condemn Sen. Josh Hawley After Pro-Trump Riot At U.S. Capitol | Elena Moore/NPR

Missouri Republican Sen. Josh Hawley continues to face intense criticism for his decision to challenge the presidential election results, the futile enterprise that helped fuel pro-Trump rioters. Hawley was the first U.S. senator to publicly vow to challenge the Electoral College tally, leading the effort with Texas Sen. Ted Cruz. Shortly before things escalated, a photo was taken outside the Capitol building of Hawley greeting the Trump loyalists with a happy fist-pump. Lawmakers were scheduled to officially recognize President-elect Biden’s win Wednesday but the proceedings were interrupted for hours when a pro-Trump mob breached the U.S. Capitol building. The event led to a woman being shot and killed by Capitol police, and a police officer dying of injuries sustained in the melee. As Congress reconvened Wednesday evening, shaken from the violence earlier that day, Hawley continued to challenge the election results in both Arizona and Pennsylvania with the backing of a smaller group of senators than originally planned. “I actually think it’s very vital what we do, the opportunity to be heard, to register objections is very vital. Because this is the place where those objections should be heard and dealt with, debated and finally resolved,” Hawley said in a speech late Wednesday evening. “In this lawful means, peacefully, without violence, without attacks, without bullets,” he added. The challenges were rejected by the majority of the Senate and House. Since Wednesday, Missouri leaders and constituents as well as members of the GOP establishment have condemned Hawley’s actions in the Senate and his rhetoric leading up to the riot.

Full Article: GOP Leaders Condemn Sen. Josh Hawley After Pro-Trump Riot At U.S. Capitol : NPR

Missouri House resolution challenging election results dies | ustin Huguelet/Springfield News-Leader

The Missouri House won’t be demanding investigations into election results in battleground states after all. Rep. Justin Hill, R-Lake St. Louis, filed a resolution earlier this month demanding inquiries into unproven allegations of fraud in six states critical to President Trump’s defeat last month, and quickly drew GOP support. Sixty-six of 114 House Republicans signed the letter addressed to Speaker Elijah Haahr, R-Springfield, asking him to allow them to consider the resolution before adjourning a special session called to deal with budget issues. Haahr obliged, and a committee led by Rep. Robert Ross, R-Yukon, voted 6-3 to advance the measure Monday after tense debate and a cameo from Rudy Giuliani, Trump’s personal lawyer.

Full Article: Missouri House resolution challenging election results dies

Missouri: No Excuse? No Problem — That’s Where Some Want To Move State’s Absentee Ballot System | Jason Rosenbaum/St. Louis Public Radio

The coronavirus pandemic exposed Missouri’s complex absentee balloting system. Before 2020, voters needed to check off a specific excuse to vote earlier. But on the final day of this year’s General Assembly regular session, lawmakers expanded how Missourians could cast an absentee ballot in a manner that many found confusing and unintuitive. With that absentee ballot expansion set to go away at the end of the year, some election officials and lawmakers want to keep things simple on how to permanently change how Missourians vote early. “They don’t need an excuse. Just come in and get it done,” said Republican Henry County Clerk Rick Watson. “We work so hard to get people registered. I don’t know why we can’t make it easier to cast their ballot without having to make up an excuse that they’re not going to be able to go to the poll.” Many of Missouri’s county clerks and election authority officials have wanted to scrap the state’s list of possible excuses to obtain an absentee ballot for years, contending, among other things, that it’s basically impossible to do anything if voters don’t actually have a reason for voting early. And while nobody feels the push for a no-excuse system will be a slam dunk, supporters are hoping the idea gains more traction after this year’s contentious election cycle. “The Legislature has not had much appetite for election administration reform lately,” said St. Louis County Democratic Elections Director Eric Fey. “I don’t know if I hold out a lot of hope. But if there’s any chance, it should probably be this session because it’s front in everybody’s mind after the presidential election.”

Full Article: No Excuse? No Problem — That’s Where Some Want To Move Missouri’s Absentee Ballot System | St. Louis Public Radio

Missouri Voting Rights Advocates Suffer Another Setback Days Before Election | Dan Margolies/St. Louis Public Radio

Missourians who vote by mail must return their ballots by mail and not in person following a federal appeals court’s order. A coalition of civil rights groups last month sued Missouri Secretary of State Jay Ashcroft and local election officials, including the Jackson County Election Board, arguing Missouri’s rules for absentee and mail-in voting are “burdensome and unjustified.” Earlier this month, U.S. District Judge Brian C. Wimes agreed that not allowing mail-in ballots to be dropped off in person or by a relative risked disenfranchising voters, and he blocked the requirement. But Ashcroft appealed Wimes’ ruling, and on Thursday the 8 th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals in St. Louis stayed the ruling until it can decide the matter. Because the appeals court hasn’t scheduled a briefing for the case and Election Day is little more than a week away, it’s almost certain it won’t issue its decision before then. That would leave its stay in place, effectively leaving the Missouri vote-by-mail requirement intact.

Missouri: State gives $4.5 million in federal funding to local election authorities | Alisa Nelson/Missourinet

The state has given about $4.5 million in federal money to Missouri’s 116 local election authorities. During a visit with reporters this week in Jefferson City, Secretary of State Jay Ashcroft says he hopes the money will help poll workers. “We made sure that everyone got at least $20,000, so that even our smallest jurisdictions had enough to really make a difference. One of the things that I’ve suggested, probably suggested it so many times that the election authorities are tired of me mentioning it, is that they should use a portion of those funds to increase their poll worker pay,” he says. Ashcroft, a Republican, has said during other occasions that the poll worker job is intense. Polls are open from 6 a.m. to 7 p.m. the day of elections. Workers have to be there before the doors open and they stay after polls close to count ballots and to do other tasks.

Missouri: Court hears lawsuit again about mail-in voting law | Alisa Nelson/Missourinet

Cole County Circuit Court Judge Jon Beetum is considering a lawsuit designed to let all Missouri voters cast a ballot by mail this year without a notarized signature. The NAACP of Missouri and the ACLU of Missouri are suing the state and contend that a new law requiring some voters to get a notary could put their health and the health of others at risk during the COVID-19 outbreak. Beetum dismissed the case in May and said the groups did not state a claim. He went on to say they are trying to get widespread absentee voting for all future elections. The case was then appealed to the Missouri Supreme Court and the high court reversed Beetum’s decision. It said the groups actually stated a claim. Plaintiffs want the court to block the notarization requirement in Senate Bill 631. Under the plan, all registered Missouri voters can mail in their ballot this year, if requested, and the ballot envelope must be notarized.

Missouri: State Supreme Court sending absentee voting case back to Cole County Circuit Court | Brian Hauswirth/Missourinet

The Missouri Supreme Court issued a decision on Tuesday involving absentee voting, ruling that a lawsuit that aims to allow all Missourians to cast absentee ballots without notarization in 2020 can proceed. The Supreme Court is sending the case back to Cole County Circuit Judge Jon Beetem. The decision means the lawsuit from the NAACP of Missouri and the ACLU of Missouri can proceed. The circuit court dismissed the lawsuit, finding that the plaintiffs failed to state a claim on which relief could be granted. The Supreme Court reversed that decision, finding the plaintiffs had stated a claim and remanded the case to the circuit court so the parties can proceed. The organizations filed a lawsuit in mid-Missouri’s Cole County, challenging the constitutional validity of absentee voting legislation that was approved by the Missouri Legislature on the final day of session in May. Governor Mike Parson (R) signed the legislation from State Rep. Dan Shaul, R-Imperial, in June. It expands voting by mail through the rest of 2020. There are two but separate options under the bill.

Missouri: Governor signs bill that expands mail-in voting options for August, November elections | Crystal Thommas/The Kansas City Star

All Missourians will be eligible to vote by mail during the August and November elections, under a bill signed by Gov. Mike Parson on Thursday. A majority of voters, however, will need to have their ballot notarized under the new law, which expires at the end of the year. The legislation was passed to give Missourians more options to vote in the face of a possible resurgence of the novel coronavirus in the summer and fall. “Any Missourian affected by COVID-19 should still be able to vote, including those who are sick or considered at-risk,” Parson said in a statement. Voters who fall within “at-risk” categories as defined in the law can vote absentee and will not need notary approval. Those include those 65 or older, immunocompromised, or have certain chronic or respiratory illnesses.

Missouri: ‘There’s no handbook for this.’ Tuesday’s election will test voter safety in pandemic | Crystal Thomas and Allison Kite/The Kansas City Star

The day before he buried his wife, Orville Amos limped into the Kansas City Election Board’s office to vote absentee. For 25 years, the 75-year-old Navy veteran was first in line at his precinct’s polling place to cast his ballot in person. That would earn him a sticker he could show off in the election authority offices, where his wife had worked for 23 years. The excitement Amos once felt about voting is gone now, eclipsed by grief over the death of his wife from lung cancer on March 25. And fear of the novel coronavirus. “You know we are in that age group where we are the target of this virus,” Amos said, clad in a white mask. “It’s intimidating to come out in public even to go to the grocery store.” Concerns about voter safety led Missouri Gov. Mike Parson to move the April 7 local elections to June 2. On ballots across the state will be city council races, school board contests and local sales tax levies for improvement projects. Most votes will be cast in-person, as Missouri does not have “no-excuse” absentee voting. Nor does it provide for early voting outside of its absentee process. There are six valid excuses to vote absentee, but fear of catching a potentially fatal disease for which there is no vaccine or treatment is not an official one. Election authorities have had to struggle to retrofit voting to the pandemic age. Where 115 polling places were once available in Kansas City, there are now 28. Many traditional sites—mostly churches and senior centers—have dropped out. A corps of about 1,200 volunteer election judges who initially signed up, many of them in the at-risk age range of 65-plus, is down to 400.

Missouri: Governor: if you don’t feel safe, ‘don’t go out and vote’ | Crystal Thomas/The Kansas City Star

Ahead of Tuesday’s local elections, Gov. Mike Parson said Missourians should prioritize their safety over voting. “I hope people feel safe to go out and vote, but if they don’t, you know, the No. 1 thing — their safety should be No. 1,” Parson said during Thursday’s press briefing. “If they don’t, then don’t go out and vote.” Most Missouri voters will be deciding on city council and school board races, or local ballot measures Tuesday. Parson signed an executive order March 18 to move elections planned for April 7 to June 2 because of concern caused by the rising number of Missourians infected with the novel coronavirus. Unlike several states, Missouri does not offer “no-excuse” absentee voting, and most voters are only eligible to cast their ballot in-person.

Missouri: Judge Rejects Bid for Widespread Absentee Voting | Joe Harris/Courthouse News

A lawsuit seeking to allow absentee voting for all eligible Missourians in light of the Covid-19 crisis was dismissed by a state judge who found that the complaint asked for measures that went beyond concerns over the pandemic. “The court takes very seriously the health concerns regarding the Covid-19 pandemic that plaintiffs allege in their petition, but the relief plaintiffs seek is not limited to Covid-19 and goes far beyond the health concerns they raise,” Cole County Circuit Judge Jon Beetem wrote in his opinion Tuesday. He continued, “Plaintiffs are seeking a radical and permanent transformation of Missouri voting practices without the authorization of the Legislature.” The American Civil Liberties Union, which filed the lawsuit, has appealed to the Missouri Supreme Court. “We don’t think the case should have been dismissed,” ACLU lawyer Tony Rothert said in an interview. “But, on the other hand, we all knew this was going to a Missouri Supreme Court resolution and this will get it there faster.”

Missouri: Lawsuit for absentee voting amid virus appealed | Summer Ballentine/Associated Press

Civil rights groups on Tuesday appealed to the Missouri Supreme Court after a local judge dismissed their lawsuit seeking to allow all Missourians to vote absentee in upcoming elections to help reduce the risk of catching or spreading the coronavirus. The lawsuit was filed in Jefferson City by the ACLU of Missouri and the Missouri Voter Protection Coalition on behalf of the NAACP, the League of Women Voters and several residents. It claims that requiring voters to appear at traditional polling places during the pandemic puts lives at risk. Cole County Circuit Judge Jon Beetem in a Monday judgment tossed the lawsuit, writing that the civil rights groups who sued were asking for widespread absentee voting for all future elections regardless of whether COVID-19 is still around. Beetem wrote that the plaintiffs sought “radical and permanent transformation of Missouri voting practices without the authorization of the Legislature.” Voters currently can request absentee ballots only if they provide an excuse for why they can’t vote in person. Illness is one option, but the law isn’t explicit on whether the illness excuse covers healthy voters concerned about catching or spreading COVID-19.

Missouri: GOP pushes bill that would force some to risk their health to vote | Dan Desai Martin/The American Independent

Voting rights advocates slammed new legislation passed in the Missouri House of Representatives because it would force voters to continue to have absentee ballots notarized before they are submitted. The new GOP-backed legislation would allow any registered voter in the state to request an absentee ballot for any reason, replacing the current requirement that provides only six approved reasons to request one. But Republican lawmakers refused to remove the provision in current Missouri law that requires that absentee ballots be notarized, saying that it is needed to combat voter fraud. In addition, the legislation requires voters to request an absentee ballot either in person or by mail. They cannot do so online or by email. Voting rights groups criticized the new rules. “Voting by mail should be safe and accessible, and having voters find and be in contact with a notary places an undue burden on voters and undermines public health during a global pandemic,” said Patrick Burgwinkle, a spokesperson for Let America Vote, in an email on Friday.

Missouri: Mail-in-voting option tucked into wide-sweeping elections bill | Emily Wolf/Columbia Missourian

An amendment to allow expanded mail-in ballots during the COVID-19 pandemic grew from five pages to 31 overnight, morphing into a piece of legislation that would change Missouri’s voter ID laws, fees for ballot initiatives and running for office. The proposal, passed through the House as part of a larger bill, would allow voting by mail in the August and November statewide elections without voters stating a reason they cannot make it to polls. The bill would expire at the end of the year. Currently, Missouri law only allows people to cast absentee ballots if they say they’ll be unable to make it to the polls for any of six reasons, including absence from the area or confinement due to illness or physical disability. Officials across the state have been split on whether that reason applies to fears of contracting COVID-19. Secretary of State Jay Ashcroft has not released guidance on how counties should set up voting, leaving it in the hands of local election authorities.

Missouri: State moving to allow mail-in voting during pandemic | Kurt Erickson/St. Louis Post-Dispatch

Missouri could offer “no excuse” mail-in ballots to all voters this year in an effort to ward off the spread of the coronavirus. The proposal, adopted by the House on Wednesday, would work like an absentee ballot, but it would not require voters to state a reason why they can’t go to the polls on Election Day. It would only be available in the August and November statewide elections. Voters would still have to get the ballot envelope notarized before it could be submitted. Rep. Dan Shaul, R-Imperial, who sponsored the provision, said voters would be able to request a mail-in ballot in person or by mail. The proposed change, which still needs Senate approval, comes after county clerks and voting rights groups have said people shouldn’t have to risk going to polling places during a global pandemic.

Missouri: State Pushes Back on Absentee Voting for All Residents | Joe Harris/Courthouse News

A lawyer for Missouri argued Tuesday that a lawsuit seeking to allow all eligible voters in the state to cast absentee ballots in light of Covid-19 pandemic is overly broad and would fundamentally change how those ballots are issued. In a hearing Tuesday afternoon in Cole County Circuit Court, Missouri Solicitor General John Sauer argued the case should be dismissed. “The relief plaintiffs are asking for would make absentee voting the dominant form of voting in Missouri,” Sauer argued before Circuit Judge Jon Beetem. “Traditionally, absentee voting has been considered the exception to the rule rather than the rule.” The American Civil Liberties Union, ACLU of Missouri and Missouri Voter Protection Coalition filed the lawsuit on April 17 seeking to make absentee mail-in balloting available to all eligible voters in Missouri. It was filed on behalf of the NAACP of Missouri, the League of Women Voters of Missouri and several individual voters. Missouri law requires voters to provide an excuse in order to vote absentee. One of the allowable reasons is “incapacity or confinement due to illness or physical disability.”

Missouri: Missouri coalition calls for no-excuse absentee voting | Glenn Minnis/The Center Square

The Missouri Voter Protection Coalition is pushing to make voting easier for residents across the state, recently outlining a set of recommendations that include expanding absentee voting by mail and in-person because of the COVID-19 crisis.  “This is a scary time, and we’re all anxious,” Protection Coalition coordinator Denise Lieberman recently said during a Zoom forum held by Empower Missouri, where state Rep. Trish Gunby (D-St. Louis) also spoke. “We’re anxious about a lot of things, including voting, and we have reason to be because this pandemic is going to affect our ability to access democracy.” While the lingering effects of the deadly virus have made the issue of acceptable forms of voting a red-hot topic, Lieberman stressed there are other reasons the option of absentee voting should be a viable one.  “I want to say this: We can ensure the proper functioning of our democracy in this state in 2020,” she added. “Our leaders may not have the political will to do it, but we have the tools to do it.”

Missouri: ACLU Explains Its Lawsuit To Force Vote-By-Mail Option | Sarah Fenske/St. Louis Public Radio

In Missouri, you may only vote by mail if you apply for an absentee ballot — and cite one of just six specific reasons detailed in state law. Among them are illness or disability, or the fact you’ll be traveling out of the area. “Fear of contracting COVID-19” is not listed among them. But the ACLU of Missouri believes that should, in fact, be sufficient cause to cast an absentee ballot. Working in concert with the Missouri Voter Coalition, the organization filed a class-action lawsuit last Friday against the state of Missouri, the Missouri Secretary of State and a few local boards of election. It argues that the “illness or disability” clause in state law should include those staying at home to avoid the coronavirus, since it specifically mentions “confinement due to illness” as a qualifier.

Missouri: Civil rights groups sue Missouri in effort to expand absentee voting amid pandemic | Austin Huguelet/Springfield News-Leader

Civil rights groups sued state and local election authorities Friday in an effort to ensure people can vote by mail if they’re staying home amid the coronavirus pandemic. In a lawsuit filed Friday, plaintiffs led by the ACLU of Missouri asked a judge to declare that state law allowing someone to vote absentee due to “incapacity or confinement due to illness” applies to people sheltering in place. Currently, it’s not clear that’s the case, creating confusion with municipal contests all over the state set for June 2. Secretary of State Jay Ashcroft, a Republican and the state’s top elections official, has declined to clarify the issue, saying it’s not his place.

Missouri: Camden County hit by cybersecurity attack | The Lake News

Camden County’s computer systems have once again come under attack. The county announced in a press release on Wednesday afternoon that it was a victim of a sophisticated encryption attack that has disrupted operations. “Camden County places the utmost importance on its network and system security, and County technology experts have been working diligently with independent cybersecurity experts to restore normal operations as soon as possible and conduct a thorough forensic investigation,” the press release stated. “At this time, the County is not aware of any unauthorized disclosure of personal data or financial information.” Camden County has alerted the FBI of the incident and will provide the necessary cooperation.

Missouri: Governor pushes April elections to June as coronavirus precaution | Jack Suntrup and Mark Schlinkmann/St. Louis Post-Dispatch

Gov. Mike Parson signed an executive order Wednesday moving the date of local government elections from April 7 to June 2. “Given the growing concern surrounding COVID-19 and the large number of people elections attract, postponing Missouri’s municipal elections is a necessary step to help combat the spread of the virus and protect the health and safety of Missouri voters,” Parson said in a statement. Parson acted as many local election officials across the state, including in the St. Louis area, were already planning to go to court to try to move the April election to June 2. On Wednesday morning, in fact, Lincoln County in the St. Louis area and 42 counties in western and central Missouri filed petitions with state appeals courts asking for such a switch. Moreover, officials in St. Charles, Jefferson, Franklin and Warren counties had said they were planning to do the same. Under Missouri law, election dates can be shifted by state appeals court panels if a disaster prevents one from being held.

Missouri: Kansas City’s Mayor Was Turned Away When He Tried to Vote | Matt Stevens/The New York Times

The mayor of Kansas City, Mo., was turned away from a polling place when he tried to vote in the state’s primary on Tuesday, a development he found frustrating and emblematic of broader problems with the American voting system. The mayor, Quinton Lucas, said on Twitter that he had been told he “wasn’t in the system” at a polling place he had used for more than a decade. The episode unfolded shortly after he made a video in which he discussed the importance of voting and encouraged people to show up at the polls. “If the mayor can get turned away, think about everyone else,” he wrote on Twitter. “We gotta do better.” The mayor’s experience was a high-profile hiccup in Missouri, one of the six states holding a primary or caucus on Tuesday — contests that could play a significant role in shaping the Democratic presidential race. Though Mr. Lucas said in an interview that he was later told that he was in fact on the voter rolls and had been turned away by mistake, he said the situation was illustrative of larger problems, namely how hard it can be to vote in America. Mr. Lucas, a Democrat who began his term in 2019, said he had used a utility bill to verify his identity, but during a 10-minute exchange with a poll worker, he was repeatedly told he could not be found on the voter rolls.

Missouri: No more touch-screen ballots in St. Louis County after $6.9 million voting equipment upgrade | Josh Renaud/St. Louis Post-Dispatch

Touch screens are out and paper ballots are in after St. Louis County upgraded its voting equipment ahead of the 2020 elections. The county election board signed a $6.9 million contract with Hart InterCivic in September to replace its legacy voting equipment. The new system prints paper ballots on demand at polling places, said Eric Fey, the board’s Democratic elections director. The price tag was $3 million lower than competing touch-screen-based systems, he said. Polling places also will be equipped with assistive devices for use by voters with disabilities. The new system got its first workout in the special election on Nov. 5. “The equipment worked almost flawlessly at the 30 polling locations we utilized,” said Rick Stream, the board’s Republican elections director. He said there were minor printer toner issues, but election staff fixed those immediately. With its old system — and the county’s many municipalities, school districts and taxing districts — St. Louis County had to preprint hundreds of unique ballot styles, estimate how many would be needed at each polling place, then deliver them to the correct polling places. Sometimes this process went wrong, as in April 2016, when delivery mistakes prevented residents in more than 60 precincts from voting. Fey said that printing ballots as voters walk in will eliminate this problem.

Missouri: Greene County experiments with process for verifying elections | KOLR

Greene County Clerk Shane Schoeller says election security is a top priority, which is why his team is double-checking the accuracy of its vote-counting machines. His office does this after every local election. This time though, they’re doing things differently. People from around Greene County witnessed and participated in the debut of a new election-auditing process: the risk-limiting audit. It’s a new election accuracy test using 20 multi-sided dice and real ballots from the most recent Greene County election. Schoeller says this method is much better than the state’s current post-audit process. He says when Greene County post-audits, no less than five percent of the polling locations of the casted ballots that day are evaluated. His new risk-limiting audit, however, looks at a much wider range of polling locations. He says this ensures the accuracy and election security he’s looking for.

Missouri: St. Louis County Voters To Mostly Use Paper Ballots | KBIA

The St. Louis County Board of Elections unanimously voted Tuesday to shift toward using paper ballots and away from touch-screen voting machines. The elections board is moving forward with a $6.9 million contract with Hart Intercivic eSlate to provide new voting machines and software that primarily run a paper ballot system. The new apparatus is expected to be in place for the Nov. 5 election. A small number of touch-screen machines — one per polling station — will continue to be available for people with disabilities, said election board chair Sharon Buchanan-McClure. It’s unclear how many machines were purchased or other details, since the contract was not immediately provided Tuesday. The board held a closed-door meeting to discuss its voting machine options. Then, it opened the meeting to take the vote on the contract without any public discussion about its decision. 

Missouri: St. Louis County Board Of Elections Gearing Up For Upgrades | St. Louis Public Radio

The St. Louis County Board of Elections is upgrading its voting equipment for the upcoming 2020 elections. The county has roughly 1,800 touch voting machines and 500 optical scan paper ballot tabulators that have had their fair share of wear and tear, and the software is now out of date. Eric Fey, the Democratic director of elections for the St. Louis County Board, said the last time county voters had new voting equipment was in 2005. “Although the equipment is 100% accurate, we have to replace components more often,” Fey said. “It’s very hard to get replacement parts. And then with the software, the programming of the ballot, the tabulation of the ballots is very labor intensive.” Currently, the board of elections is holding public demonstrations with three contenders including Dominion, Hart InterCivic and the county’s current vendor Election Systems & Software.

Missouri: Lawmakers discuss return to paper ballots | Columbia Missourian

Voters could get the chance to check their electronic ballot for accuracy before turning it in under a proposed bill. HB 543, sponsored by Rep. Tony Lovasco, R-O’Fallon, would require electronic voting machines to print out a paper ballot that could be reviewed by the voter. That paper ballot would also be available to those checking ballots during recounts. The bill also works to phase out electronic voting machines that directly record results without producing some sort of physical copy. As the machines die out due to age or malfunction, the bill states that they would not be replaced. The bill would make paper ballots the “official ballot” except for those submitted by electronic machines that have not yet been replaced.