JEFFERSON CITY, Mo. — Missouri’s Secretary of State would see his investigative powers expand under a bill given preliminary approval by the House.
On Wednesday, the lower chamber perfected HB 269, filed by Rep. Dan Shaul. The measure would give the state’s top election official subpoena power when investigating voter fraud and other election irregularities.
“[Let’s] give the tools to the Secretary of State so he can be another set of eyes on voter fraud,” Shaul said during debate.
The sentiment was echoed by several in the chamber, with Rep. Bill Kidd adding, “I’d like another set of eyes looking at complaints.”
Supporters of the legislation said that the measure gives the appropriate enforcement authority to the Secretary of State. They noted that the subpoena power only involves the production of documents and physical items.
Yet, that provision of the bill got pushback from Democrats who worried that the power could be abused and made into a political tool. Rep. Judy Morgan said that she was not concerned about Secretary of State Jay Ashcroft but individuals holding the office in the future could pose a problem.
Opponents argued that current relations between county clerks and the Secretary of State are excellent. Morgan also pointed out that the information that would be sought falls under the purview of the Sunshine Law, thus making is open.
The bill also requires candidates to pay filing fees directly to the treasurer of the appropriate political party committee whenever a declaration of candidacy for a particular office is required to be filed with the Office of the Secretary of State.
Filing fees to political parties came under scrutiny in 2018 when then-Rep. Courtney Allen Curtis was barred by the Missouri Democratic Party from entering a Senate race due to unpaid fines.
The bill needs one more vote before heading to the Senate.