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Ashcroft: Missouri ‘showed rest of country’ how to handle elections

JEFFERSON CITY, Mo. — Missouri “showed the rest of the country how to” handle elections in the middle of a pandemic, Secretary of State Jay Ashcroft said after Election Day

Multiple states became the sites of lawsuits involving the presidential election after Nov. 3. And two (Georgia and Wisconsin) held recounts as President Donald Trump still has not officially conceded to President-elect Joe Biden. 

In Missouri, Trump saw wide margins over the former vice president (nearly 57 percent to Biden’s 41 percent, according to unofficial results). But it wasn’t just the uncontested margins that proved Missouri could serve as an example to other states when it comes to holding elections, Ashcroft said in a wide-ranging interview following the elections. 

“We had thousands of poll workers who came out and did a great job to make sure everyone could vote. And the voters of this state, they weren’t scared. They didn’t stay home. They did what was necessary for our republic to continue, and that’s for citizens to be active, to be self-informed, and to participate in our elections,” Ashcroft, a Republican, said. “I love Missouri, but Missouri showed the rest of the country how to do it.” 

“We’ve done it four times this year — with the presidential preference primary, municipal elections, our August primary election, and our general election we just had in November. The rest of the country could learn from how the people of Missouri did their elections.” 

Ashcroft praised efforts to clean up voter rolls and implement a photo ID requirement in Missouri. He also noted Missouri didn’t greatly alter voting options despite the rise in COVID-19 cases. 

Missouri elections did change slightly as the state, just like the rest of the nation, grappled with the COVID-19 pandemic this year. Municipal elections scheduled for April were moved to June, and Gov. Mike Parson signed into law a bill expanding access to different voting options due to the pandemic. Under the new law, voters were able to request a mail-in ballot for the 2020 elections from a local election authority (which required notarization), and individuals who contracted the virus or were considered to be high-risk could vote absentee without notarization. 

Many Missouri Democrats pushed for voting options to be expanded further — such as not requiring notarization for absentee ballots — but Ashcroft opposed those measures. 

“It’s making sure that it’s easy to vote and easy to register in Missouri as it is, but when you do vote, you make sure you are who you say you are, and we have that chain of custody with your ballot,” Ashcroft said. “I think this country went in the wrong direction with the states that were just willy-nilly mailing ballots out to people.”

“I think there needs to be a re-evaluation of what the purpose of our elections is. We’ve focused on convenience to the point of maybe losing what we want to get out of an election,” he continued. “We need it to be easy for every legal voter to be able to vote. But elections aren’t like picking up your groceries at the grocery store; we need to make sure that as we continue to make sure it’s easy to vote in elections, we don’t cheapen elections — that we still have faith in how it’s run, and we do it in such a way that people can still have faith. Is the purpose of an election just to elect your person or is the purpose of an election truly for legal voters to vote for who they want?”

Ashcroft also spoke about his concern for the future of elections at a large rally held inside the Missouri Capitol on Nov. 14 in support of Trump. 

“I want to have a system where people know if they were successful they were legitimately successful, and if they were unsuccessful, the other side followed the rules, and they just came up short so we can move forward as one country and one state,” Ashcroft told The Missouri Times then. “There are people concerned about how our elections are run which I think is proper. There are people who have concerns about whether or not vote counts are accurate; that concerns me because above all, as someone who helps run elections, I want people to have confidence in the process that’s used.”

Ashcroft, a Republican, won re-election to the statewide office seat, beating Democratic contender Yinka Faleti by historic margins. As for the down-ballot races, only one House race was contested enough to warrant a recount: Democratic challenger Betsy Fogle ultimately beat incumbent Republican state Rep. Steve Helms in HD 135.