Senate considers election reform legislation
JEFFERSON CITY, Mo. — It’s down to the wire for a pair of election reform bills in the Missouri Capitol.
HB 334 and HB 738 would revise Missouri’s election policies. The first bill, from Rep. John Simmons, requires photo IDs for those voting in-person absentee, while voters without IDs would fill out provisional ballots to be counted if certified. HB 738 would alter a myriad of election policies, including requiring the use of paper ballots, allowing no-excuse absentee voting, and prohibiting the use of mail-in ballots.
“I’m of the school of thought that it’s better to fix a problem before the problem exists,” said HB 738 sponsor Rep. Don Rone. “I want to ensure Missouri is never in the same position as Georgia, Pennsylvania, Michigan, or Wisconsin. I felt we needed to address some things before these things could happen.”
Missouri’s photo ID law was put into effect in 2017. The law dictated voters have three options when voting in person: present a current Missouri driver’s license, nondriver’s license, passport, or military or veteran identification; present an alternative form of non-photo ID along with a sworn affidavit; or cast a provisional ballot.
Secretary of State Jay Ashcroft testified in favor of both bills before the Senate Local Government and Elections Committee Wednesday, positing the photo ID regulation would bolster the state’s voting security without decreasing turnout.
“It’s a wonderful thing; we’ve had some photo ID in the state since 2017 and this would make our elections more secure without turning away a single registered voter,” Ashcroft said. “In fact, it would increase access to the ballot, and I appreciate that.”
Three other witnesses, including local election authorities, testified in favor of HB 334, while six testified in opposition. Rone’s bill saw five witnesses testify in favor, including Ashcroft, with another six witnesses opposing it.
Denise Lieberman, director of the Missouri Voter Protection Coalition, spoke against both bills. She pointed to a provision in the second piece eliminating the requirement for the Secretary of State’s Office to notify voters of ID requirements in advance, saying doubt had already been cast on the Office during a case before the Missouri Supreme Court.
“There was a weeklong trial filled with testimony about the deficiency in the ability of the Secretary’s Office to actually reach voters who need it, and now we’re actually going to not only strip the statutory obligation to provide that notice, but strip funding specified to do so,” she said.
Missouri expanded its voting options last year due to the coronavirus pandemic; no-excuse absentee and mail-in voting were added for last year’s elections, and a handful of bills in the legislature this year seek to make it a permanent change.Cameron Gerber - Cameron Gerber studied journalism at Lincoln University. Prior to Lincoln, he earned an associate’s degree from State Fair Community College. Cameron is a native of Eldon, Missouri.