New voting provisions will hurt voters

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Dear Editor, 

It was my pleasure to speak at the Maries County Truman Day event last week in Vienna. I appreciate the opportunity to speak about democracy. I am glad you were there to report on it.

One thing that I should have said when I was talking last Wednesday night was that I would love the opportunity to give the same democracy message to a Republican group in rural Missouri. If I get asked by them, I will say YES.

Here is a legislative update to remarks I made last Wednesday evening. The bill HJR79 about changing the initiative petition process did not pass both chambers of the MO General Assembly.  

But, HB1878 passed both the MO House and Senate late last week. The bill sits on the Governor’s desk for his signature. 

On Wednesday night I talked about how HB1878 will institute a strict govt-issued state photo ID to vote and disproportionately disenfranchise seniors, young voters, minorities, and women.

There are many other provisions in bill 1878 that will hurt voters:

Concerning voter registration, this bill prohibits anyone from being paid for voter registration, impeding organizations whose staff do voter registration in their work.  So this will probably mean that our League of Women Voters will not be able to register voters at new citizen events, high schools, and other community events because the support for that service goes through our office which has paid staff.

Concerning absentee ballot application form help, this bill makes it illegal to provide someone with an absentee ballot application. In our League office and at community events, our League has blank absentee ballot applications available to give to people who are wondering if they can vote absentee. The League will no longer be able to give them an application so that they can send it in to receive an absentee ballot.

Concerning election changes, this bill does not allow changes to election law 6 months before an election. With COVID in the city where the rate of infection was highest during the 2020 elections and the hospitals were running out of staff and ventilators, the state needed to be able to allow people to vote safely and the law needed to change quickly. This bill will not allow an election law change to happen before an election if it is needed.

Concerning aid at election time, this bill does not allow local election authorities to receiving grants to expand services. During COVID, STL area election authorities had to hire people to hand out masks and clean voting stations, as well as, purchase all the protective equipment and materials needed to vote safely. Some funds used by these election authorities came from grants that were not through the state. Were the elections supposed to be run without needed health and safety protections?  This provision of the bill ties the hands of local officials to offer safer voting options.

Concerning the ability to go to court to overturn an election law that creates barriers, HB1878 moves power over legal actions on elections to partisan legislators, prohibiting the attorney generals office from exercising legal authority in voting cases. The League is concerned about citizens and organizations being able to sue to maintain the freedom to vote for all.

A good thing in HB1878 is the DMV can now electronically capture and transmit voter registrations and a voter can update their registration address at the polls.

The League of Women Voters will have its hands full to educate all Missouri voters about these new requirements to cast a ballot.

 

Making democracy work,

Angie Dunlap

President, LWVSTL

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