Missouri: Voting on trial: ACLU case against Ferguson-Florissant goes to court | St. Louis Public Radio

Are African-American voters in the Ferguson-Florissant school district shortchanged because board members there are elected at-large? Or would dividing the district into subdistricts actually weaken the clout of black voters, not increase it? U.S. District Judge Rodney Sippel will hear arguments for both sides of the issue this week in a lawsuit filed by the American Civil Liberties Union. The ACLU claims that the racial history of the makeup of the board shows that African Americans do not have representation proportional to their population. Dale Ho, an attorney from New York who handles voting rights cases nationwide for the ACLU, says the shooting of Michael Brown in Ferguson in 2014 brought a sharper focus to the issue. But, he added, it really has been present since the 1970s, when the Ferguson-Florissant school district was created from the Ferguson, Berkeley and Kinloch districts under a federal court order.

Missouri: Lawmakers renew push for photo ID for voters | Associated Press

Republican Missouri legislative leaders, backed by veto-proof majorities, will try again in 2016 to require voters to show photo identification at the polls, despite numerous failed attempts over the past decade. Sen. Will Kraus, a Lee’s Summit Republican running for secretary of state, pre-filed a proposed constitutional amendment to allow for photo identification and a bill that would require voters to present government-issued photo ID. GOP House members pre-filed similar measures. A change to the state’s constitution would be necessary before implementing a photo ID law because the Missouri Supreme Court struck down a similar measure in 2006 as unconstitutional.

Missouri: Automatic voter registration filed by two house Democrats | The Missouri Times

While Republicans across the state look to pass legislation on photo voter ID laws (or get it on the ballot via petition in the case of Secretary of State candidate Jay Ashcroft), two house Democrats have a different idea concerning voter accessibility. Reps. Randy Dunn, D-Kansas City, and Kimberly Gardner, D-St. Louis, have both put forth separate pieces of legislation which would enable automatic voter registration based on driver’s license information instead of the current independent registration process. Dunn, speaking only for his own bill, hopes this bill boosts voter turnout by removing certain hoops that must be jumped through by individuals to become registered voters. “For me, I believe we need to be engaging as many people as possible in the political process,” Dunn said. “This is one vehicle to make sure we are getting more people registered.”

Missouri: Bill Would Let Secretary of State Prosecute Voter Fraud | Ozarks First

A bill that would give the Secretary of State’s office the authority to prosecute voter fraud in Missouri is being submitted for 2016. The bill would also allow the Secretary of State to write probable cause statements in potential voter fraud cases. “It allows them to prosecute voter fraud cases if the local prosecutor chooses not to or doesn’t have the resources,” said Senator Will Kraus (R-Lee’s Summit), who is sponsoring the bill. “There are some small counties in the state of Missouri that may not have the resources and then there are some large counties that may be taking care of more violent crimes and other things that the prosecutors are a little busy with and don’t have the time for a voter fraud case.”

Missouri: Voter photo ID, ethics reform among top priorities for Senate Republicans| MissouriNet

State Senate Republicans have caucused and the filing of bills will begin December 1. The man who can decide what does and doesn’t reach the Senate floor in the 2016 session said he can’t rank legislative priorities, but Mike Kehoe (R-Jefferson City) told Missourinet there are some issues that stand out. Voter photo ID will be proposed again. “I believe Senator [Will Kraus] … will be working through voter ID. He’s been a champion of it before. He’s very passionate about it, and many people are,” said Kehoe. “We feel like if you’re going to vote for the most powerful man in the world, having proper identification is only reasonable.”

Missouri: Loop 70 – Gerrymandered into a dead end | Columbia Daily Tribune

I have lived in this town almost as long as the courthouse columns and have never seen the like. Gerrymandering has produced exactly the opposite outcome envisioned by the cartographers. The drama is playing out on Business Loop 70, where contiguous business interests have spent time and money concocting a community improvement district like the one encompassing downtown. Moreover, they have engaged former downtown guru Carrie Gartner as their director, the one person in the world with the most experience designing and creating a CID district in Columbia, Missouri. According to state law, a CID board draws boundaries and property owners in the area decide whether to ask the city to establish the district with power to enact sales taxes. If no residents live within the district boundaries, the vote to establish the sales tax is left to property owners. Property assessments already have been approved by business interests in the district. Both special taxes must be ratified by the city council. Gartner & Co. drew their district lines very carefully to include all the interested business interests and no nearby residents. But they made a mistake, failing to exclude a lone dwelling located on the Mizzou North campus where University of Missouri student Jen Henderson lives. Henderson is a registered voter and says she is skeptical of the district. If she follows through with a “no” vote, the district idea is dead.

Missouri: College student would be sole voter in Community Improvement District sales tax decision | Columbia Daily Tribune

A mistake by representatives of the Business Loop 70 Community Improvement District means a sales tax increase the district needs to thrive will require approval by a single University of Missouri student. On Feb. 28, Jen Henderson, 23, became the sole registered voter living within the community improvement district, or CID, meaning she is the only person who would vote on a half-cent sales tax increase for the district. The Columbia City Council established the district on a 5-2 vote in April in response to a petition from a group of property owners in the CID boundaries. The “qualified voters” in a CID are capable of levying various taxes or assessments within the boundaries of the district to fund improvement projects. Under state law, decisions to impose sales taxes in a CID are to be made by registered voters living in the district boundaries. If no such registered voters are present, property owners vote. Many homes surrounding the university-owned property where Henderson resides were not included in the district when it was drawn because district organizers wanted a district free of residents.

Missouri: Ashcroft seeks 10,000 volunteers to get photo-ID proposal on the ballot | St. Louis Public Radio

Jay Ashcroft, a Republican running for secretary of state in 2016, is pleased that the Missouri Secretary of State’s office has authorized him to circulate his initiative petition proposal to allow a photo ID requirement for voters. Now, he just needs a bunch of volunteers to help out. “I want to try to get 10,000 volunteers across the state,” Ashcroft said Wednesday in a press conference at the Brentwood Library. “And if I do that, then everybody has to get 30 signatures: a couple of houses next to you in your neighborhood. A couple of people in your church, your synagogue, your mosque or wherever you worship. And then a couple of family members, and you’re done.” So far, Ashcroft estimates that he’s acquired about 1,000 helpers.

Missouri: Secretary of state candidate files voter ID measure | Associated Press

A Republican candidate for Missouri secretary of state on Thursday filed an initiative petition that would allow the Legislature to require voters to present photo identification at the polls. St. Louis attorney Jay Ashcroft filed the proposed constitutional amendment with the secretary of state’s office to permit a photo ID requirement. Republican supporters, including Ashcroft’s opponent in the GOP primary Sen. Will Kraus, have pushed to amend the state’s constitution since the Missouri Supreme Court declared photo ID requirements unconstitutional in 2006. Supporters of requiring photo ID at the polls say it would prevent in-person voter fraud and protect the integrity of elections. But Democratic opponents say the measure would make it harder for minorities, women and the poor to vote.

Missouri: Mayor Sly James can stay on the ballot in Kansas City | The Kansas City Star

Mayor Sly James can stay on the Kansas City ballot in June. Jackson County Circuit Judge Joel Fahnestock on Wednesday dismissed a lawsuit seeking to block James from a place on the city’s general election ballot. Primary opponent Clay Chastain had filed suit against James, claiming James was delinquent on property taxes early this year and therefore could not run for re-election as mayor. Vincent Lee, who will also be on the mayoral ballot in June, attempted to join Chastain’s lawsuit in April. But Fahnestock said Chastain lacked standing to sue and had not explored other remedies to strike James from the ballot. Lee, she said, also waited too long to try to join the case.

Missouri: Expanded voting rights, registration for military voters sent to governor | Associated Press

Military voters returning from service would have a longer window to register to vote in Missouri elections under a measure headed to the governor’s desk. The Missouri Senate gave final approval Wednesday to a bill that would allow military and overseas voters to participate in elections for statewide offices, the state Legislature and statewide ballot initiatives. Currently those voters are allowed to vote only in federal elections.

Missouri: Pleadings due today in Clay Chastain’s legal attempt to get Sly James off Jackson County ballot | The Pitch

A Jackson County Circuit Court judge has told Clay Chastain, April’s distant third-place finisher in the Kansas City mayoral primary, and attorneys for incumbent Sly James to file arguments to the court by the end of the day Tuesday about whether James should be disqualified as a candidate. Tuesday’s deadline is the first major step in Chastain’s bid to remove James from the ballot. Jackson County Judge Joel Fahenstock indicated on Monday that she might hold a hearing on Friday afternoon.

Missouri: Conway pursues absentee voting changes | St. Joseph News-Press

A St. Joseph Democratic lawmaker continues to push ahead with attempted reforms to the state’s method of absentee balloting. Rep. Pat Conway has filed only one bill for the 2015 legislative session: a measure that would allow registered voters eligible to vote in a particular election to do so by absentee ballot without needing to provide a reason. Mr. Conway’s proposal seeks to repeal the state’s requirement of asking a registered voter who applies for an absentee ballot to submit a reason for voting absentee. However, the application would have to state whether the voter is incapacitated or confined due to an illness, physical disability, or is someone who is primarily responsible for the physical care of an incapacitated or confined person.

Missouri: Ferguson Mayor James Knowles faces recall effort | St. Louis Post-Dispatch

For the past few months, a series of protests have targeted the homes of politicians, and Mayor James Knowles III figured his turn was coming soon, especially after Friday, when five residents filed an affidavit to remove him from office. And sure enough, about 6:45 a.m. Monday, roughly 10 protesters were outside his house, playing music along with sound bites of his own comments through a bullhorn. Knowles said he had warned his wife that if the protesters showed up at his door, he was going to open it, and so he did. “They were clearly not expecting that,” he said.

Missouri: Callaway County Clerk requests new voting machines | Fulton Sun

The Callaway County Commission and County Clerk Denise Hubbard met with sales associates from Springfield-based Elkins-Swyers Company to learn about options for new voting machines. Hubbard said the current voting machines are at least 10 years old, and the most common glitch is with the piece that rolls ballots into the machine’s hub for storage. She added that piece of equipment can sometimes be fixed internally, but when the issue is more complex, the machine has to be shipped to Springfield for repairs. Clerk employees use Windows 98 on election nights. Cory Nibert, a sales associate with Elkins-Swyers, said the current machines have not yet been phased out, but parts are becoming more expensive. He and his co-worker, Steve Byers, brought a new voting machine inside the Commission’s office Thursday for demonstration. Hubbard told the commission she wanted to give them an idea of what’s available. “(The system) is very similar to what we use now. It’s just a little more computerized, maybe,” Hubbard said. “It’s a little easier, a little smoother. It’s going to cut down on man hours.”

Missouri: New machines will help visually impaired voters cast ballots | Southeast Missourian

A purchase approved Thursday by the Cape Girardeau County Commission will allow visually impaired voters a little more autonomy when it comes to casting ballots. Starting with April’s election, the county’s accessible voting units will have larger screens — 15 by 15 inches versus the 7-by-3-inch screens currently in use. County Clerk Kara Clark Summers said the larger screens were not available when the county originally purchased accessible voting equipment. The requirements included in the Help America Vote Act of 2002 were the kick-start that brought such equipment to many counties, including Cape Girardeau.

Missouri: State Official Says Photo ID At Polls Would Put ‘Unjust Burden’ on Missouri Voters | The Missourian

Voter photo ID legislation filed in the Missouri House would put an “unjust burden” on voters, a spokeswoman for Secretary of State Jason Kander told The Missourian Monday. Under the legislation, which would be subject to voter approval, citizens could be required to present a photo ID at the polls in order to vote. Currently, voters can present an ID without a picture to vote but also have the option of presenting a photo ID. Proponents of photo ID at the polls say it can reduce the risk of voter fraud. Opponents say requiring photo ID can put up barriers for voters.

Missouri: House passes voter ID bills | Northwest Missourian

The Missouri House of Representatives once again passed legislation regarding voter identification. Over the past several years, the House has attempted to implement new laws to combat voter fraud but have been struck down by the Missouri Senate and the Missouri Supreme court. The Missouri legislature first must amend the constitution to allow for a voter identification law to be passed. House Bill 30 will implement voter identification restrictions. Just last year a similar bill was presented, House Bill 1073, but faced scrutiny from Secretary of State Jason Kander.

Missouri: Senate passes cutoff for changes to ballot measures | Kansas City Star

Missouri ballot measures would need to be finalized earlier if legislation passed by the Senate on Thursday is signed into law, an effort to save money on reprinting ballots that last year cost the state close to $680,000. The bill, approved 26-8, would set a deadline to change ballot measures about two months before an election, which is two weeks sooner than the generally accepted standard. Current law allows measures to be finalized at any point within 180 days of an election, although absentee and military ballots must go out about six weeks early. The legislation follows hundreds of thousands of dollars in reprinting expenses after a mid-September court ruling that required last-minute changes to the wording of a proposed constitutional amendment to create a limited early, no-excuses-needed voting period.

Missouri: Voter ID law gets initial House approval | Kansas City Star

Year after year, Missouri Republicans try to implement a photo ID requirement to vote. Despite overwhelming legislative majorities, they come up short every time. The GOP has watched voter ID bills vetoed by Democratic Gov. Jay Nixon, tossed out by the courts and bargained away by lawmakers in favor of other legislative priorities. The perennial push began anew this week, with the House granting initial approval to a pair of bills sponsored by Rep. Tony Dugger, a Hartville Republican. One bill would ask voters to amend the state’s constitution to allow the state to require a photo ID before casting a ballot. This is a necessary step to overcome a state Supreme Court ruling that deemed a previous voter ID law unconstitutional.

Missouri: Lawmakers seek voting reforms | St. Joseph News-Press

Two St. Joseph legislators have crafted proposals this session that would alter voting procedures such as those designated for absentee balloting. Rep. Pat Conway, D-St. Joseph, has written a bill that would allow any registered voter eligible to participate in a particular election to do so by absentee ballot without being required to state a reason. Under Mr. Conway’s plan, an application for an absentee ballot instead would need to state whether the voter is incapacitated or confined due to illness or physical disability. People who are primarily responsible for the physical care of an incapacitated or confined person also would fall under the definition.

Missouri: Since 2004, St. Louis Has Purged 25 Percent Of Its Voters | St. Louis Public Radio

Over the past 10 years since it faced two federal lawsuits, the St. Louis Board of Election Commissioners has quietly cut 75,000 people off of its voter rolls. That represents more than a quarter of the 281, 316 voters on the city’s rolls in 2004. St. Louis’ voter list now totals 206,349, according to state election records. The city’s Republican elections director, Gary Stoff, says none of the excised voters appears to have been an active voter. He suspects most were people who had moved or died and whose names had simply been languishing on the city’s voter rolls for years. But the reduction in St. Louis’ voter rolls appears to be by far the most dramatic action taken by the 29 Missouri counties – the city of St. Louis is its own county – that were sued 10 years ago by the federal government because they had more people on their voter rolls than their entire voting-age population.

Missouri: Dugger’s photo I.D. legislation debated | Webster County Citizen

Tony Dugger, R-Hartville, who represents Seymour and eastern Webster County in the Missouri House of Representatives, admits he has brought his voter I.D. bill before the legislature many times. “If you’ve been on [the Missouri House Elections] Committee in the past, you are not seeing any new information here today,” he said. “This is basically the same bill I’ve been presenting for the last several years.” Dugger, the former Wright County Clerk, presented his bill to the House Elections Committee on Tuesday, Jan. 27, and it was met with significant hostility from lawmakers, interest groups and everyday Missourians. “I’m not exactly speechless, but I am just amazed that you have the chutzpah to keep bringing this back to this committee,” said State Rep. Stacey Newman, D-St. Louis County.

Missouri: Lawsuit challenges county’s exclusion of third-party candidates in special elections | Call

If Concord resident Cindy Redburn gets her way, Republican Tony Pousosa and Democrat Kevin O’Leary will not be the only candidates facing off in the April 7 special election for the 6th District County Council seat. The Constitution Party, Redburn and south county residents who say they want to vote for Constitution Party candidate Redburn filed a lawsuit Friday against St. Louis County over the county Charter’s exclusion of third parties from special elections like the one for the 6th District seat. The lawsuit alleges the Charter’s clause that only allows major parties in special elections is unconstitutional. The Charter clause allowing only Democrats and Republicans to run candidates in special elections has gone unchallenged since the county Charter was adopted in 1979, until now. “I was a little bit astounded when I first realized it and then decided that this couldn’t be unchallenged,” Redburn said of the specific exclusion of third parties from the rare special elections.

Missouri: Legislators Once Again Consider Photo-ID Mandate For Voters | St. Louis Public Radio

The decade-long effort to require photo IDs in Missouri voting booths is once again under way in the General Assembly, although it’s unclear if the chances are any brighter. State Rep. Tony Dugger, R-Hartville, is once again the chief sponsor of the two-pronged campaign to mandate government-issued photo IDs at the polls. “I am 100 percent sure that voter impersonation fraud is taking place in the state of Missouri,’’ he said a hearing Tuesday before a House committee. State Rep. Stacey Newman, D-Richmond Heights, is among the opposition leaders who say there’s been no proof of such fraud. They say that Dugger is targeting certain groups of Democratic-leaning voters – including students and minorities – who are less likely to have the types of photo IDs his legislation requires.

Missouri: Days out, Eric Fey is in as director of St. Louis County elections | Post Dispatch

Former State Sen. Rita Days has been removed from her post as director of the St. Louis County Board of Elections. The Board of Election Commissioners – which ousted Days in a unanimous vote Tuesday afternoon – tapped Eric Fey to oversee voting in the state’s most populous county. Fey, the legislative aide to St. Louis County Council Chair Pat Dolan, brings prior experience as an election board employee to the job. He has also served as a foreign election observer. A Democrat, Days has overseen county elections since her appointment by the commission in 2011. Her annual salary was $118,539.

Missouri: St. Charles County refunds $221,367 in election charges to local governments | St. Louis Post-Dispatch

The county has refunded $221,367 in what an audit says were election cost overcharges to cities and other local governments. The action was taken over the objections of County Elections Director Rich Chrismer, who disputes the findings and had refused for months to issue the refunds himself. County Finance Director Bob Schnur said Friday that the checks were mailed Tuesday. Chrismer was notified Wednesday. “This is the right thing to do,” said Schnur. Chrismer said he planned to take legal action to fight the county administration’s move, which was first requested by the County Council last summer. He says state law gives him control of the fund in question. “He took money out of the account,” Chrismer said of Schnur. “By law, he has no right to take it out.” Schnur disputed that, saying the money in question was collected in error and never should have been in the account.

Missouri: Race and Voting Rights in Ferguson | New York Times

For most people, Ferguson, Mo., will be remembered for one awful August afternoon, when a white police officer there shot and killed an unarmed black teenager, Michael Brown. But that incident was only a snapshot in the town’s long and complicated racial history — a history characterized by entrenched segregation and economic inequality, as well as by familiar and systemic obstacles that have kept black residents from holding positions of political power. Ferguson’s population is two-thirds African-American, and yet its mayor, city manager and five of its six City Council members are white. So are its police chief and all but three officers on its 53-member police force. The school board for the Ferguson-Florissant School District is much the same: More than three-quarters of the district’s 12,000 students are black, but the seven-member board includes only one African-American.

Missouri: Lawmakers, clerks, debate merits of early voting amendment | Columbia Missourian

Missouri will join the 33 states that allow early voting if voters approve Amendment 6 on Tuesday. But the proposed amendment would make Missouri’s early voting laws some of the most stringent in the country. Amendment 6 would allow for six business days of early voting per general election, beginning in 2016. The early voting would occur at county clerks’ offices during normal business hours and depends on the Statehouse and governor approving extra funding for the added expenses. Voting policies vary by state, but most states, including Kansas and Illinois, offer longer early voting periods and more flexible locations and times. An earlier ballot proposal would have allowed up to six weeks of early voting in Missouri. The measure failed to garner enough signatures to appear on the ballot.

Missouri: Early voting amendment up for Missouri vote | Associated Press

Voters could have an extra six days to cast ballots during the 2016 presidential election if a proposal to change the Missouri Constitution gets enough support on Election Day. Touted by Republicans as making voting more accessible and faulted by Democrats as not making it accessible enough, proposed Amendment 6 would allow registered voters to cast a ballot for six days ending the Wednesday before a general election, not including weekends. Unlike the six-week period of absentee voting in Missouri, residents wouldn’t need an excuse to vote — in-person or with mail-in ballots — early. The catch: Local election offices could hold early voting only if the state agrees to pay for the costs, estimated at close to $2 million the first year and at least $100,000 per election in following years. That has some local clerks worried that they might not get enough state funding and be saddled with expenses. To that end, a state appeals court panel ordered a description of the initiative for the Nov. 4 ballot be changed to add the state-dependent funding.