Getting advance voting should be easy — but not in Missouri

05/10/2014 2:40 PM

05/10/2014 2:40 PM

Missouri never does things the easy way.

Case in point: early voting. Voters might have to choose between two early voting proposals. And guess what? Neither has it right.

One plan calls for a

six-week

advance voting period that would have Missourians voting for president in September. The second plan, which lawmakers are now considering, calls for a measly six-day early voting period, and get this: You couldn’t vote on a weekend.

That, of course, is the whole point of early voting. It’s supposed to make voting easier.

So we’ve got a good concept — early voting — all jacked up because, once again, Democrats and Republicans can’t work things out.

We’re doing this the hard way.

The six-week early voting plan is a product of a ballot initiative petition effort led by attorney Matt Dameron, a former aide to Attorney General Chris Koster. You can assume that Dameron wants to help his old boss by finding a way to boost Democratic prospects in the 2016 governor’s race.

Making it easier to vote is looked at, in Missouri at least, as a way to help Democrats. The theory is that Democrats don’t show up on Election Day as reliably as Republicans. So for at least a decade now, Democrats have pushed this while Republicans have resisted, never mind that 35 other states, including Kansas, have some type of early voting.

In Missouri, elections officials from both parties have long backed the idea. Still, the Republican-led legislature has held firm even as the GOP built overwhelming majorities. Why risk a good thing?

That intransigence led Dameron and others to take the long road and gather the 160,000 signatures needed to get the issue on the ballot. This month, they turned in 300,000.

The group’s work finally got Republicans off the couch. They’ve spent weeks crafting their own version of the law, and let’s be clear: They’re doing it to undermine the Dameron plan. The GOP bill says the shorter advance voting period would take precedence over any other plan — a clause that has lawsuit written all over it.

The Dameron plan would provide one of the nation’s longest advance-voting periods. It woudl be twice as long as Kansas’ 20 days, and it would be expensive as county officials would have to staff polling sites on Saturdays and Sundays.

But the Republican plan is so limited that it hardly constitutes early voting.

Lawmakers could reach for something reasonable next week, the session’s last. But don’t count on it. We’ll do it the hard way.

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