Secretary of State Jay Ashcroft on Jan. 28 told Missouri Press Association reporters that he believes local, state and federal elections should be run by states and not standardized across the …
Secretary of State Jay Ashcroft on Jan. 28 told Missouri Press Association reporters that he believes local, state and federal elections should be run by states and not standardized across the nation.
“I am not in favor (of standard election rules),” Ashcroft said when asked if he would support a nationwide standard. “I think elections are generally run well by states.”
Ashcroft clarified that he does believe the opportunity for the federal government to be involved is there.
“They should make sure states follow their laws during an election and aren’t trying to change their rules right before the election,” he said. “If we truly believe individuals of states are wise and should be listened to, we should be listening at the lowest level possible — state and local levels.”
Ashcroft said his primary concern is what the federal government thinks it can do during elections.
“The federal government had a lot of sway over the election, but it shouldn’t be over voter registration,” he said. “It is important we allow states to make their own decisions. States should be able to work with what works well for them.”
Ashcroft also supports no-excuse absentee voting in Missouri and was asked why he maintains the stance when court challenges alleged fraud-free absentee voting in 2020.
“I understand service members may need it and there are other specific situations for people, with very good reasons, who can’t get to the polls to vote,” Ashcroft said.
Ashcroft said the word “convenience” should be associated with the grocery store not with voting. He was informed that according to the Cost of Voting Index, Missouri rates at the third hardest state to vote in.
“The process should be safe and secure with access to the polls,” he said. “In November, people in Missouri knew who had won or lost by 10 p.m. There were no ballots being counted the next morning that made a difference. There was a great sense of certainty. People want to vote in person.”
He maintained that voting in person makes elections more secure, and people more sure of the process.
“When you vote in-person, and the scanner sends it back, you have a chance to fix it,” he said. “But not when you mail it in.”
In regards to the Cost of Voting Index that rated Missouri as the third hardest state to vote in, Ashcroft said he doesn’t know what scale the system uses.
“I think it is very easy to vote in Missouri,” he began. “We have seen great turnouts, better than ever with the presidential election. Great even with the primary turnout, a third greater than 2018. From what I see, if people wanted to vote, they could and it was easy.”
COVID-19 brought many new challenges to the elections last year and will greatly affect how elections are conducted moving forward. Last minute changes in election rules, as well as an increase in mail-in ballots and concerns about election fraud have called the integrity of elections into account.
Ashcroft was asked how the state plans to improve the trust and integrity in the elections after the doubt cast last year.
“I talk about transparency,” Ashcroft said. “Make people understand how they can be poll watchers and challengers. Make sure we have accountability if someone doesn’t follow the law and their needs to finality. There needs to be a deadline. It is there for a reason and should not be moved back. It’s simple…set the rules and let people see it is being done.”
While the state works to bring integrity back into the elections, Ashcroft says they still expect the April 6, 2021, General Municipal Elections to take place as usual.
“I do not have any authority over the date of the election,” Ashcroft said. “Under Missouri law, local election authorities can go to their appellate court that runs them and request a change. I do not see any movement from local election authorities to do that and I am not pushing for that. If it is going to be done, local election authorities will do it.”
Missouri Governor Mike L. Parson was also asked if he planned to issue a second executive order to move the state’s General Election in April.
“I’d assume they are on schedule,” Parson said. “I think we are going to start moving forward. We have a lot of great people on the county level working on elections. The Missouri election process worked well, but I do think we want to get back to normal elections.”
Both officials spoke to Missouri Press members via Zoom.