An early voting measure Missouri lawmakers endorsed Wednesday could wind up competing on the ballot with a more expansive version proposed through a petition drive. The constitutional amendment passed by the Legislature would allow ballots to be cast on six business days ending the Wednesday before an election. In-person ballots would be cast during the regular business hours of local election officials, who would be barred from activities or incurring expenses for early voting unless funding is included in the state budget. The measure states its provisions could not be repealed or invalidated by another constitutional amendment unless that measure specifically references them. The Legislature’s approval means it will appear on the November ballot unless Gov. Jay Nixon sets a different election date.
“It gives voters the ability to cast an informed decision, and at the same time, gives them the flexibility to cast a vote before Election Day,” said sponsoring Rep. Tony Dugger, R-Hartville. Democratic critics contend the Legislature’s proposal is too narrow. Rep. Randy Dunn called it a “sham.” “This is not real early voting,” said Dunn, of Kansas City.
The other early voting proposal possibly headed for this fall’s ballot would permit a six-week early voting period and require officials to accommodate early voting on Saturdays and Sundays for the final 21 days before federal or state elections. Supporters said they gathered about 300,000 signatures to get the measure on the November ballot, and a former chief of staff for Attorney General Chris Koster is the campaign treasurer. House members approved the narrower proposal 92-57 on Wednesday. Earlier this week, the Senate passed it 22-8.