KANSAS CITY, Mo. – Changes to election laws are a focal point across the country following the November general election, which broke turnout records despite the ongoing COVID-19 pandemic.
The effort to change, and generally restrict, voting rights by many Republican lawmakers, including several bills in Missouri, where the House of Representatives and the Senate have measures to consider that have attracted support from the GOP and strong opposition from defenders of voting rights.
Missouri House Bill No. 334, which has passed the House and is awaiting a Senate hearing, would require all voters absent in person to present photo ID, eliminating any form of non-photo identification. Only documents issued by Missouri, the US federal government, or the military would be accepted.
It also eliminates the requirement for the Missouri Secretary of State to inform the public of personal identification laws before elections – typically through postings on state websites and through advertisements.
The law would also require anyone casting a provisional ballot to return to the polling station with photo ID to have their vote counted.
State Representative Chris Sander – a Lone Jack Republican representing the 33rd District, which includes parts of Cass, Jackson and Lafayette counties – co-sponsored House Bill 334. He expressed concern about the voting process at polling stations.
“In an area like Kansas City, there are actually several people with the same name coming to vote, and I think it is necessary for workers in training and inside the polling station to have a photo, because several people have the same name and you can’t tell who is who, ”Sander said.
He added: “If you have to ask someone 20 questions to make sure they are who they say they are because they brought a document with a similar name to four other people with the same name? name in your enclosure, that makes it difficult. . I don’t think it’s unacceptable to require a photo. “
Denise Lieberman, general counsel for the Missouri Voter Protection Coalition, disagreed.
“Let’s keep in mind that Missouri already requires all voters to show ID at the polls,” she said. “What legislation like House Bill 334 would do is remove some of the identification that people can currently show, including a voter card, the document sent by the election authority that verifies that you are registered to vote for this election. “
She points to the statement by state officials from the GOP after the November 2020 election as proof that current election laws are working and do not need to become more restrictive.
“After the November 2020 election, Missouri Secretary of State Jay Ashcroft touted Missouri election security, and that remains true today,” Lieberman said. “The truth is that our lawmakers don’t want certain segments of our population to vote, and that is fundamentally wrong. A democracy cannot exist if all of the people eligible to participate do not have seats at the table.”
Here is information on the other three bills pending in the Missouri legislature, including links to the full text of each bill:
Postal voting without excuse would be allowed for all residents of Missouri, if this law were passed. However, the proposal would move the start of postal voting from six weeks before the election to the third Tuesday before the election. All ballots should be received before the close of polling stations on polling day.
The law would also require that a photo ID issued by Missouri, the federal government or the military be presented in order for a ballot to be counted. Any mail ballot not deposited after presenting photo ID in person to the local election authority will need to be notarized, except in narrowly defined circumstances.
The law also prohibits non-governmental entities from paying individuals to solicit voter registration applications, prohibits the collection of signatures within 50 feet of a polling station, and would require that a person’s declared custodians be unfit or confined live in the same residence as the person to be eligible. for certain postal votes.
Under this law, the Missouri Secretary of State would be authorized to verify the accuracy of the voter rolls of any electoral authority by providing at least five days’ notice and requiring that deceased, relocated, or unfit voters vote be struck off.
A second audit to confirm the withdrawal would also be allowed. In the event of non-compliance, the secretary of state’s office could withhold election funds. The law would also prohibit amending or changing the electoral law within six months of a presidential election.
The law would also ban the electronic counting of votes and require “a paper ballot hand-marked by the voter”, effective January 1, 2022. It would impose photo ID requirements similar to the invoices described above .
Postal voting without excuse would be allowed for all residents of Missouri, if this law were passed. However, the proposal would move the start of postal voting from six weeks before the election to the third Tuesday before the election.
Any mail ballot not deposited after presenting photo ID in person to the local election authority will need to be notarized, except in narrowly defined circumstances.
State electronic voting systems would be required to provide paper ballots for voter verification.