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Opinion: Hand-marked paper ballot advocates request the governor’s help

Missouri must have a special session this summer to address urgent business related to election policy: In particular, legislation needs to pass that would outlaw the use of computerized voting equipment (other than for disabled voters who need assistance) and ensure that the entire state uses a hand-marked paper ballot system.

What is the urgency? Why not wait until next session to get this done? It’s simple: We need hand-marked paper ballots in order to have a reliable means to audit totals produced by the computerized ballot scanners used by all jurisdictions in the state. We’ve gone without this safeguard for years despite warnings from numerous computer security specialists, including many from the top institutions in the country. Anyone concerned with election integrity should find Missouri’s lack of a statewide software-free record of the vote unacceptable. No more elections, including the upcoming November election, should be conducted without this safeguard in place.

There were SIX bills in the Missouri Legislature this past session that contained language mandating hand-marked paper ballots: SB 378, HB 738, HB 842, HB 925, SB 282, and HB 850. In the many years we have been trying to make this critical change in Missouri, never have we of Missouri’s Coalition for Transparent and Secure Elections seen such enthusiasm and commitment among legislators for making it happen. Given what we were hearing early on about the prospects for the language in both Houses, we were reasonably hopeful that this, our 13th year, would be the year that it would finally become law. Either it would pass as a single-issue bill or it would be attached to an election omnibus bill that we hoped wouldn’t contain anything objectionable. Unfortunately, however, even with six vehicles lined up to move the hand-marked paper ballot language across the finish line, it didn’t make it.

All of the single-subject bills containing our language were heard in committee and voted out, but they were never brought to the floor for a vote. One omnibus bill which included our language was voted out of the House; another was voted out of the Senate at 2:30 a.m. of the last day of session with no time to iron out the many conflicting opinions on subjects included in the bill other than hand-marked paper ballots. If the leadership had allowed any of the single-subject hand-marked paper ballot bills to be put on the floor for a vote, there would have been overwhelming support. As it was, the session ended with NO election bills on any subject making it to the governor’s desk, despite an unprecedented level of interest in election reform on the part of legislators and the public.

So, our champagne bottle remains corked. But we remain steadfast in our commitment to the cause because there should never be software between a voter and their vote.

We call on Gov. Mike Parson to do the right thing and convene a special session on elections without delay.