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Republicans ask Parson for election, initiative petition reforms special session

JEFFERSON CITY, Mo. — Before the legislative session officially came to a close, a handful of Republican House members asked Gov. Mike Parson to convene a special session to address initiative petition and election reform proposals, including voter ID. 

The House Elections and Elected Officials Committee Republicans, led by Rep. Dan Shaul, slammed Senate leadership for not taking up “several key pieces of election legislation,” arguing a special legislative session should be called in the interim. They pointed to alleged discrepancies with the 2020 presidential election as a catalyst for the need for reform. 

“As you are well aware, in the last presidential election, our country witnessed many discrepancies and issues with the election process in several states across this nation, which are a cause of great concern. While I am incredibly confident in the way our elections were conducted in Missouri, my colleagues and I remain committed to ensuring Missouri continues to be the gold standard for election security nationwide,” the letter said. “My goal is to be proactive to ensure we don’t experience similar situations in the state of Missouri in future elections.” 

Specifically, the lawmakers said they wanted to see initiative petition and election reforms tackled with a special session, particularly establishing voter ID, more stringent guidelines for mail-in voting, and preventing ballot harvesting. 

Shaul pointed to five pieces of legislation in particular:

  • HB 333 from Rep. John Simmons would charge a $500 filing fee for initiative petitions, refundable if the petition is approved for circulation. It sits on the Senate informal calendar. 
  • HB 334 also from Simmons would require voters without identification to vote via a provisional ballot. It also sits on the Senate informal calendar. 
  • HB 738 from Rep. Don Rone contains a myriad of changes to election laws, including authorizing the secretary of state to audit voter registration lists and allowing no-excuse absentee voting if a photo ID is produced. It passed out of a Senate committee earlier this month. 
  • HB 850 from Rep. John Wiemann prohibits courts from modifying of summary language approved by the General Assembly and has grown to include other provisions, including requiring runoff primaries for congressional, federal, and statewide offices through 2024 if no one wins the majority of the vote. It is in the Senate Government Accountability and Fiscal Oversight Committee. 
  • HJR 20 from Rep. Mike Henderson would require an amendment to the state constitution to receive a two-thirds supermajority vote for it to be approved. This bill is on the Senate informal calendar. 

Secretary of State Jay Ashcroft has said he’s supportive of election law reform, telling The Missouri Times late last year there needs to be a “re-evaluation of what the purpose of our elections is.” He said on social media that he supports the call for a special session if the General Assembly does not approve these measures before session ends. 

Complaints about alleged discrepancies in the 2020 presidential election have been largely debunked. According to an analysis from NBC News, most lawsuits filed as a challenge to the presidential elections were withdrawn or dismissed.

As a sign the session was nearing an end, the House lawmakers blamed Senate leadership for failing to address the issues in the upper chamber. 

“In hearing from hundreds of constituents across the state, it remains clear that Missourians continue to support common-sense legislation to ensure the security of elections. Unfortunately, Senate leadership has held up these important issues,” Shaul said. 

A spokeswoman for Gov. Mike Parson did not immediately respond to a request for comment. 

Shaul is running for state Senate to replace term-limited Paul Wieland. He represents HD 113 in Jefferson County and is also the chairman of the Special Committee on Redistricting.