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15 April 2010

Joe Smith: House Passes Voter Identification and Absentee Voter Bill

This week, the House perfected House Bill 1966, sponsored by Representative John Diehl, R – St. Louis. It would change the law regarding the way uniformed services voters and overseas voters can vote by absentee, in addition to early voting for Missouri citizens and the requirement of photo identification in order to vote.

While our men and women overseas are fighting for our freedom and making sacrifices for our great country, we should do what we can to make the voting process easier for them.

Through this legislation, the Secretary of State would be required to establish procedures for absent uniformed services voters and overseas voters to request voter registration applications and absentee ballot applications. At least one form of electronic communication for use by the military and overseas voters must be designated for requesting voter registration applications and absentee ballots. These voters may request and designate a preferred method of electronic transmission of these applications and ballots or request receipt by mail. The Secretary of State must also develop, in coordination with local election authorities, a free access system by which these voters may determine whether an absentee ballot has been received by the appropriate election authority. A sufficient quantity of paper ballots for federal elections must be printed and available for these voters within 45 days prior to the election. Registration applications and paper ballots cannot be rejected by an election authority because of any restriction on the paper or envelope type.

The substitute to this legislation would change the law in regard to voter identification as well as the details surrounding the way in which absentees are able to cast their vote. Through HB1966, absentee voting centers would be opened the second Saturday before elections until the Wednesday immediately preceding the election. In addition to polls being open before Election Day, absentee voters would no longer have to give an excuse as to why they can’t vote on the actual day. We understand that Missouri citizens have very busy lives, whether it’s taking the kids to soccer practice, an unpredictable job schedule or out of town travel, there are times when people just can’t make it to the polls on Election Day. We want to make it easier for our citizens to get out and vote at a time that is convenient for them. Another important feature of HB1966 is the requirement for voters to present identification at the time of voting. In everyday life we have to have identification to drive a car, get on an airplane and use credit cards, why shouldn’t we require the use of identification at the polls?

The substitute will become effective upon voter approval of a constitutional amendment that authorizes the General Assembly to require the photo identification, advance voting, and voter registration requirements by general law.

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