MISSOURI

 

Candidates

Lindsay Simmons -- Congress for US House of Representatives

Jill Schupp for Congres US House of Representatives

Ashley Aune -- Congress US House of Representatives

NOTES:

  1. MO Voter Registration Deadline. Oct 7, 27 days before Nov 3, 2020.

  2. Stage 1 -- Excuse required to vote by mail
  3. No online registration available

FAVORITES:

  1.  Act Blue Directory 

  2. Vote.org -- Everything about every state

  3. Movement.vote/groups/ -- Help local, state orgs get out the vote

  4. Votevets.org -- Vets against voter suppression

  5. Votefwd.org -- Most popular way to volunteer to support getting out the vote

  6. VoteSaveAmerica.com -- Adopt a State

Voter Issues

OCTOBER 2020

• Missouri: A federal appeals court has blocked a lower court ruling that would have allowed mail voters in Missouri to return their ballots in person. Under an almost unparalleled state law, such voters can only return their ballots via U.S. mail.

• Missouri: A federal judge has stayed his own ruling allowing the in-person return of mail ballots pending an appeal by Republican Secretary of State Jay Ashcroft.

• Missouri: The Missouri Supreme Court has rejected voting advocates' appeal of a lower court ruling that dismissed their challenge to a GOP-backed requirement that absentee ballots cast by voters under the age of 65, who are typically less Republican than elderly voters, be notarized. In a separate federal lawsuit, a district court has ruled against the GOP and blocked a state law that prohibits voters from returning their mail ballots in-person; Republicans announced they will appeal.

• Missouri: Voting rights advocates have filed a suit in federal court challenging a ban on returning mail ballots in person. They also want voters to be given the chance to cure any problems with mail ballots after they're cast. Separately, a state court judge has dismissed a lawsuit challenging the Missouri GOP's requirement that voters have their mail ballots notarized if they are under the age of 65. Two other lawsuits challenging the law are still pending.

AUGUST 2020

• Missouri: A state court has thrown out the GOP's ballot summary for a constitutional amendment that Republicans placed on November's ballot to gut a reform voters enacted in 2018 to make legislative redistricting fairer, ruling that the GOP's language was deceptive and calling it "the exact evil the summary statement is meant to combat, not promote." The court rewrote the summary to more accurately convey that the measure would repeal a key part of the 2018 reform proposal, leading the GOP to promptly file an appeal.

The GOP had described its amendment as creating an independent commission to draw districts, ban lobbyist gifts, and reduce legislative campaign contribution limits. However, Republicans were deceptively using a tactic that they had accused reformers of using in 2018: adding small ethics reforms to paper over their major changes to redistricting. The GOP's amendment would simply lower contribution limits by just 4% and reduce the limit on gifts from registered lobbyists to legislators from $5 to $0 after the 2018 measure set a $5 limit on what had previously been an unlimited gift allowance.

Far more consequential to the GOP's amendment are the changes that would gut the 2018 measure's redistricting reform components. Rather than create any new commission, the GOP's amendment would eliminate the position of nonpartisan demographer and instead return sole control over redistricting to the state's gridlock-prone bipartisan commissions appointed by political officeholders. It would also loosen the requirement for partisan fairness to the point that it would effectively become toothless.

The new ballot summary devised by the court asks if voters want to amend Missouri's constitution to "repeal rules for drawing state legislative districts approved by voters in November 2018 and replace them with rules proposed by the legislature; lower the campaign contribution limit for senate candidates by $100; and lower legislative gift limits from $5 to $0, with exemptions for some lobbyists."

Missouri: Voting rights advocates and a trio of voters have filed a lawsuit in state court challenging several Missouri laws, including a requirement that most—but not all—types of mail voters have their ballots notarized. They also want officials to count any ballots postmarked by Election Day and received within a minimum of 10 days; currently, ballots must be received by Election Day.

In addition, plaintiffs want to lift Missouri's ban on voters returning mail ballots in person. Under state law, all such ballots can only be returned by U.S. mail. Many states, however, allow voters to deposit mail ballots at polling sites, election offices, or secure drop boxes, an option that experts have increasingly promoted to help voters avoid both the health risks of voting in person and the uncertainties surrounding mail delivery thanks to the Trump administration's cuts to the Postal Service.

 

Missouri: St. Louis County, a suburb of St. Louis whose 1 million residents make it the most populous in Missouri, will let voters vote at any polling place within the county and offer curbside voting at polling places. Given the difficulty that election officials around the country have had in finding enough poll workers, switching to this system could allow officials to reallocate poll workers and resources to where they are likely to be most needed.

MARCH 2020

• Missouri: Republican Secretary of State Jay Ashcroft says that the possibility of relaxing Missouri's excuse requirement to vote absentee is "on the table," though he indicated that such a change would require legislative action. He also sounds largely opposed to the idea of holding elections entirely by mail.

• Missouri: As expected, Missouri's Republican-led state House has passed a new GOP-backed voter ID law that would be one of the most restrictive in the nation. Democratic attorney Marc Elias, who led the successful fight that saw the Missouri Supreme Court strike down the state's previous voter ID law, previously promised renewed litigation if this latest measure becomes law.

 

• Missouri: State House Republicans have given preliminary approval to a bill that would revive the GOP's photo voter ID requirement after the state Supreme Court recently struck it down and allowed the use of non-photo IDs.

This latest proposal would enact what would possibly be the strictest voter ID requirement in the country by mandating that voters present an unexpired Missouri driver's license, non-driver ID card, or a federal government-issued photo ID such as a military ID. If they don't have one, they can vote a provisional ballot that would only be counted if the voter returns with a valid photo ID the very same day at the same polling place.

Another vote in the state House is needed before the bill goes before the state Senate, but with Republicans holding large majorities in both chambers and the governor's office, this bill appears likely to become law. If that happens, another round of litigation is all but assured.

FEBRUARY 2020

• Missouri: Missouri Republicans in the state House recently held a hearing on a proposed constitutional amendment that would make it much harder to pass progressive initiatives to amend the state constitution but affect conservative measures far less.

The amendment would raise the threshold for passage from a simple majority statewide to a two-thirds supermajority in a majority of state House districts. It would also require signatures equivalent to 8% of registered voters in two-thirds of all 163 state House districts. That's much more burdensome than the current requirement of signatures equal to 8% of the last gubernatorial vote—a smaller figure than the total number of registered voters—in two-thirds of congressional districts (of which there are only eight).

This proposal comes after voters passed an amendment in 2018 to make legislative redistricting fairer, which Republicans are plotting to gut by placing their own amendment on this year's ballot. Jointly, these proposed changes would likely make it much harder to put progressive initiatives on the ballot than conservative ones, since Democratic voters are heavily concentrated in less than a third of districts around cities such as Kansas City and St. Louis, whereas a supermajority of state House districts are strongly Republican.

Republicans can put measures on the ballot with a simple majority in the legislature. They could also time any election so that a referendum would be held separately from the general election, ensuring turnout would likely be lower and the electorate more conservative.

• Missouri: Republican state senators have given preliminary approval to a constitutional amendment that would gut the reforms voters approved in 2018 to make legislative redistricting fairer.

The GOP's amendment would eliminate the post of "nonpartisan demographer," who is tasked with drawing new maps and proposing them to a bipartisan commission appointed by legislative leaders. Instead, it would restore the commission's power to draft maps itself. The amendment also neuters the requirement of partisan fairness in all but name and prioritizes compactness instead.

The amendment also removes a requirement to use the total population for redistricting—the norm in practically every state—and it instead loosens the language to allow for unspecified "data being used." That change opens the door to using the whiter adult citizen population for the purposes of drawing new lines, something that Donald Trump and Republicans pushed heavily for last year as part of a plot to undermine Democratic and Latino representation in redistricting. Although Trump failed in his drive to add a question on citizenship to the census, he's still trying to produce citizenship data by other means for states like Missouri to use.

In order to mislead voters into thinking they're making the system fairer, the GOP has tacked on minor ethics and lobbying restrictions for state lawmakers. Republicans accused the 2018 amendment's proponents of doing this very thing by combining ethics reforms with redistricting reforms, but those reformers were trying to make the system fairer by establishing ethics restrictions in a state that previously had few.

The GOP's new provisions would add little, given how dramatically the 2018 amendment changed the status quo. In one egregious example, lobbyists were previously permitted to give unlimited gifts to lawmakers. The original amendment capped all gifts at $5, leading to a 94% drop in lobbyist spending. The new Republican amendment would simply ban such minor gifts entirely, as though eliminating lobbyists' ability to buy lattes for legislators amounts to meaningful ethics reform.

Republicans still need a further vote in the state Senate before the amendment goes on to the state House for consideration. However, since Republicans hold supermajorities in both chambers, it's almost certain they'll attain the simple majorities they need to put the measure before voters in a referendum. Republicans could schedule that referendum for a date that doesn't coincide with the November general election as a ploy to produce lower turnout that they hope would lean disproportionately conservative.

JANUARY 2020

• Missouri: Following a recent state Supreme Court ruling that gutted most of the GOP's voter ID law, a Republican legislator has introduced a bill to implement what would possibly be the most restrictive state voter ID requirement in the country.

Under the law that was just struck down, voters could sign a sworn affidavit if they lacked photo ID, but the court invalidated that option because the affidavit was "contradictory" and "misleading." Voters can now simply present a non-photo ID such as a bank statement or utility bill.

However, this latest proposal would scrap that alternative altogether by mandating that voters present an unexpired Missouri driver's license, non-driver ID card, or a federal government-issued photo ID such as a military ID. If they don't have one, they can vote a provisional ballot that would only be counted if the voter returns with a valid photo ID the same day at the same polling place.

The bill also ends a requirement for the secretary of state, a post held by Republican Jay Ashcroft, to notify the public about changes to voter ID requirements, exacerbating voter confusion and potentially deterring some voters from voting.

Ashcroft advocated for the new legislation in a recent hearing, and with Republicans firmly in control of state government, there's a strong possibility that it could become law. However, the recent Supreme Court ruling was 5-2, with one of the court's three Republican appointees siding with the four Democratic appointees who make up a majority on the bench. A further legal challenge could therefore have a chance to succeed once again if Republicans pass a stricter ID requirement into law.

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• Missouri: Missouri's state Supreme Court has upheld a lower court ruling that gutted most of the GOP's voter ID law, meaning that voters will no longer need a photo ID to vote and can instead present a non-photo ID such as a utility bill. The GOP-backed law gave voters who only had a non-photo ID the option to sign a sworn affidavit, but justices struck down the affidavit requirement as "contradictory" and "misleading."

Justice Patricia Breckenridge, who'd been named to the bench by former Republican Gov. Kit Bond, sided with her four Democratic-appointed colleagues to uphold the lower court's ruling, leaving two GOP appointees in the minority. Following the decision, Republican state Secretary of State Jay Ashcroft signaled that he wanted the GOP-dominated legislature to "move forward" with an unspecified effort to revive the photo ID requirement.

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• Missouri: Missouri Republicans are vowing to promptly move ahead with a power grab in the coming session of the state legislature to undo the redistricting reforms that voters enshrined into the state constitution in 2018.

That amendment altered the existing bipartisan commission that handles legislative redistricting by establishing the post of "nonpartisan demographer." That person is tasked with proposing maps to the commission that use a metric called the "efficiency gap" to try to minimize any unfair partisan advantage for either party and promote competitiveness.

Under Missouri's previous system, an equally divided bipartisan commission drew maps every decade but without any such fairness mandate. As a result, the current legislative maps give Republicans a large advantage, thanks in part to the segregation of black and Democratic voters in cities such as St. Louis and Kansas City. Republicans therefore don't want to see maps drawn that give Democrats a more proportionate share of seats, even if the GOP's majorities wouldn't be at risk in this red state.

To sabotage the new reforms, one Republican lawmaker has introduced a new constitutional amendment that would eliminate the nonpartisan demographer's position and effectively neuter the partisan fairness requirement by prioritizing compactness instead. Doing so would reinforce the partisan distortion caused by decades of policies and suburban white flight that have left cities such as St. Louis heavily segregated from their whiter and more conservative-leaning suburbs. Under the voter-approved reform, the commission can only alter the demographer's map with a seven-vote supermajority, but the GOP's amendment repeals that restriction, too.

The amendment also removes a requirement to use the total population for redistricting—the norm in practically every state—and it instead loosens the language to allow for unspecified "data being used." That change opens the door to using the whiter adult citizen population for the purposes of drawing new lines, something that Donald Trump and Republicans pushed heavily for last year as part of a plot to undermine Democratic and Latino representation in redistricting. Although Trump failed in his drive to add a question on citizenship to the census, he's still trying to produce citizenship data by other means for states like Missouri to use.

Republicans hold the supermajorities needed to put this amendment on the ballot this year. They can also set the date for a time that doesn't coincide with November's general election, ensuring lower turnout and, likely, a more conservative electorate. The GOP unsuccessfully attempted a similar gambit last year only to unexpectedly lose on a procedural vote thanks to absent lawmakers, something that's unlikely to happen again.

Republicans also appear intent on adding modest language on ethics reforms in an attempt to hide the true purpose of the amendment, which is to gut redistricting reform. Republicans accused supporters of the 2018 amendment of doing this very thing by tying popular lobbying and ethics reforms to a redistricting reform they claimed wouldn't have passed without the other provisions. Even if that were true, however, reformers were trying to make the system fairer, not less so—as Republicans intend to.

©BOOMERS FOR DEMOCRACY