Legislatures in Missouri and other states have spent a lot of time in recent years discussing voter ID laws and other ways to make sure ineligible citizens don’t cast ballots. Much less energy has gone into making sure that the electoral process works well for citizens who are eligible. But that’s where the emphasis should be. Incidents of non-U.S. citizens voting, or people voting under the wrong identities, are far fewer than the glitches and barriers that prevent or discourage citizens from exercising their right to vote. A project begun by Missouri Secretary of State Jason Kander should bring the picture into sharper relief. Kander has created an elections integrity unit to assess potential voting improprieties. A website connected to the secretary of state’s office — www.sos.mo.gov/elections/elections_integrity — encourages citizens who believe they have witnessed a violation of Missouri election law to file an online report. The office has pledged to evaluate every complaint and provide the source with a written response. The office’s reviews are posted on the website. So far there are nine, all of them suspected problems the office has looked into this year.
One is a well-known case from the August 2010 primary election in Kansas City, in which two relatives of John J. Rizzo, a Democratic candidate for Missouri state representative, fraudulently listed the wrong address as their residence so they could vote in Rizzo’s election. That case has been investigated by federal and state authorities, and the two family members are barred from registering or voting in Missouri again.
Another review was initiated by the secretary of state’s office itself, after the St. Louis County Board of Elections Commissioners rejected an unusually high number of provisional ballots in the November 2012 election.
It turned out the ballots had been improperly placed into optical scan voting machines, instead of the designated provisional ballot envelopes. So the votes were wrongly counted, and the empty provisional ballot envelopes were rejected. Kander’s staff recommended targeted training for election judges and the creation of an Election Day checklist for handling provisional ballots.