COLUMBIA, Mo. – Columbia’s two urban representatives held a town hall Monday evening alongside recently retired Boone County Clerk Wendy Noren to get the message out about the new photo voter ID law.
Reps. Martha Stevens and Kip Kendrick, both Democrats, organized the town hall where 50 nearby residents, voters and poll workers asked questions for well over an hour-and-a-half about the minutae of the new law. Stevens said with an election in a nearby House seat coming up in August, in a district that includes parts of Southern Boone County, they felt the need to inform people about what changes the law will bring.
“Rep. Kendrick and I were talking about it towards the end of session, especially given the fact that we have a special election in the 50th District,” Stevens said. “We wanted to make sure people had updated information… We felt like it was our responsibility.”
Kendrick added that the event was also a learning opportunity for the state reps themselves to understand a bit more about the inner workings of the law.
Noren, who served as Boone County Clerk for 35 years before retiring last Friday, led much of the conversation, being one of the foremost experts in election procedure in the entire state. She answered the bulk of people’s questions
“These kinds of things are very important, because there’s so much misinformation going out,” Noren said. “For years, we’ve been hearing about photo ID law… and we’re trying to make sure voters know the same ID they used to vote last November is still valid.”
Noren, a Democrat, also gave a great deal of credit to Secretary of State Jay Ashcroft for his work in promoting the new law and working with county clerks across the state.
“I’ve been very impressed,” Noren said, noting that he advocated for increased funding from the General Assembly to promote awareness of the law change. “He could have handled it very differently. He could have just said, there’s a photo ID law, and people would have gotten the wrong impression. He could have let people try to get this identification on their own. I think he’s taken a leadership position in doing this.”
She noted his office will have a special group working to attain documents for people who need them to get a photo voter ID. Noren also said the secretary of state’s office has designed the forms and worked with vendors of the electronic pads to make signing affidavits for those with supplemental IDs easier.
Noren added the secretary of state’s office have also been in constant communication with county clerks around the state, answering their questions. Two members of Ashcroft’s staff were at the event, and Noren said they would be speaking to every county clerk in person to ensure they understood the process.
Ashcroft himself has gone on a tour of the state promoting the new law.
Noren also credited Reps. Stevens and Kendrick for their work organizing the event. One patron told her they were surprised it was not just an opportunity for Democrats to complain about a new law the minority party had vigorously opposed. Kendrick however even mentioned during the event that the state had voted for the new law with a resounding 60 percent of the vote. As such, it was their job to educate people about what would happen under the new law, regardless of whether or not they liked it.
“Both our state reps and myself, the goal from the beginning was to educate people that no matter what they’ve heard, everybody is going to be able to vote,” Noren said. “If you’re registered you can vote.”
The photo voter ID law went into effect earlier this month.