HJR90 would compete with citizen-backed initiative petition expected to qualify for November ballot

Media Contacts: Sean Soendker Nicholson, (573) 427-7326; Andrew Kling, 816-920-0370; Lara Granich, (314) 640-8498

JEFFERSON CITY — Citizens and community leaders from across Missouri today condemned a Senate committee’s proposed constitutional amendment (HJR90) that would undermine the popular initiative petition to create early voting opportunities in the state.

HJR90, sponsored by a member of the American Legislative Exchange Council’s ‘task force’ on regressive election policy [1], has actually gotten worse since it was rushed through the Missouri House. The Senate Committee Substitute, sent to the floor this week, includes the following:

  • Only six days of early voting, instead of six weeks. HJR90 would create a much more limited early voting window than the citizen-supported proposal.
  • Prohibitions on weekend and evening voting options, preferred by many early voters in other states. Sunday is the day most preferred by early voters, and is included in the citizen-back proposal. The Senate Committee Substitute would create a constitutional prohibition on any early voting options outside of bankers hours.
  • A cynical ‘kill switch’ for legislature to cancel early voting at any time by removing appropriations in budget bills. 
  • Intentional, unnecessary confusion for voters. If aproved by the House and Senate, Legislators would be placing a competing constitutional measure on the ballot after more than 300,000 signatures from Missouri voters were submitted to the Secretary of State for a real early voting proposal.

“This looks like a sham,” said Greg Oelke, who gathered signatures for months in the Springfield area. “When I talk to voters in my community about our initiative petition to allow more Missourians to participate in our democracy, they couldn’t wait to sign. What the legislature is doing now is just wrong.”

“I stood in the cold for weeks to gather 330 signatures for a real early voting proposal,” said Jan Brill of Blue Springs. “For politicians in Jefferson City to come in at the last minute and try to confuse voters with an inferior, competing proposal is extremely frustrating. This smells to high heaven, and we aren’t going to stand for it.”

Missouri is one of only 15 states in the country that lacks any form of early or “no excuse absentee” voting, which provides registered voters with the opportunity to cast a ballot before Election Day.  Early voting across the United States has increased steadily over the last three decades. In 1992, just 7.2% of voters nationally voted before Election Day; in 2012, the percentage had jumped to 31.2%.

[1] Documents obtained by Common Cause show that Rep. Tony Dugger has been a member of ALEC’s Public Safety & Elections Task Force.