Amendment 6 campaign gears up

  

JEFFERSON CITY, Mo. – Missourians for Free and Fair Elections is preparing for November. Aaron Baker, spokesman for Missourians for Free and Fair elections, said the ballot measure should be an easy issue to voters.

“Amendment 6 is an opportunity to make it easier for Missourians to have access to the ballot box in a fair and secure way,” Baker said. “This proposal is basically ‘no excuse’ absentee voting.”

Baker
Baker

Baker said the message is a positive one.

“People naturally like the idea of making it easier to vote and for elections to be fair and secure. It’s not a confusing question on the ballot and it’s something that is popular with Republicans and Democrats. We just need to be out in the communities of Missouri telling the story of the importance of fair and secure elections.”

The measure was a legislative proposal – sponsored by Rep. Tony Dugger (R-Hartville) – which passed in May in an effort to provide an alternative to a momentous early voting initiative petition that could have cost the state tens of millions of tax dollars per cycle to implement.

“We’re trying to get early voting at a reasonable cost,” Sen. Will Kraus said while speaking in favor of the resolution.

The ballot language for Amendment 6:

[Proposed by the 97th General Assembly (Second Regular Session) SS SCS HCS HJR 90]

Official Ballot Title:

Shall the Missouri Constitution be amended to permit voting in person or by mail for a period of six business days prior to and including the Wednesday before the election day in all general elections?

State governmental entities estimated startup costs of about $2 million and costs to reimburse local election authorities of at least $100,000 per election. Local election authorities estimated higher reimbursable costs per election. Those costs will depend on the compensation, staffing, and, planning decisions of election authorities with the total costs being unknown.

Fair Ballot Language:

“yes” vote will amend the Missouri Constitution to permit voters, in years when the legislature provides funding, an early voting period of six business days prior to and including the Wednesday before election day to cast a ballot in all general elections. This amendment does not allow early voting on Saturday or Sunday.

“no” vote will not amend the Missouri Constitution to provide all voters with a six-business day early voting period.

If passed, this measure will have no impact on taxes.

“We have county clerks that support the initiative,” Baker said. “It puts very little burden on them, whereas other proposals would have been more than a month of free-for-all voting at multiple locations. Some counties and election authorities said it would bankrupt their local jurisdiction.”

The petition initiative, supported by the Missouri Early Voting Fund, had fiscal estimates up to $11 million per cycle for the state, to be paid by the counties. The initiative would require extended voting hours 21 days from election and no excuse voting 6 weeks in advance from election day.

The Missouri County Clerks Association strongly opposed the petition initiative regarding early voting. The petition initiative ended up coming drastically short of the correct signatures needed in order to get certified for the ballot and was strongly criticized for possibly providing a Democratic advantage.

“There were other proposals out there that would have been ‘counting the baskets one team makes during warm ups,’” Baker said. “Voters do not decide how they will vote in elections until a week out or less. [Amendment 6] is a really reasonable, smart plan to get folks easier access to the ballot box in a secure way, but it also doesn’t give either party an advantage. I think it’s very important Missouri, which is a swing state, for the integrity of elections.”

Baker told The Missouri Times they are getting their statewide team together now.

Currently, Missouri has absentee voting available for six weeks before an election, but no ‘no excuse’ early voting period for voters. Absentee voting requires good reason in order to cast a ballot, including incarceration, illness, or absence on election day. Absentee ballots are cast at the local election authority. Mailed absentee ballots must be applied for.

Amendment 6 will be decided on November 4.

Rachael Herndon is the editor at The Missouri Times, but also produces This Week in Missouri Politics and publishes Missouri Times Magazine. She joined the Missouri Times in 2014, returning to political reporting after working as a campaign and legislative staffer.

Rachael studied at the University of Missouri – Columbia. She lives in Jefferson City with her husband, Brandon, and their two children.

To contact Rachael, email rachael@themissouritimes.com, or via Twitter @TheRachDunn.