Voters Guide

Some Democrats fear proposal for six days of early voting will not help many workers

A proposed constitutional amendment on the November ballot would create a six-day early-voting period in Missouri, but only if lawmakers agree to pay for it.

Thirty-three states and the District of Columbia allow voters to cast a ballot early. But in Missouri, voters must provide an excuse to be granted an absentee ballot, such as being out of town on Election Day.

The GOP got behind the six-day measure out of concern about Democrats gathering signatures to place a six-week early-voting proposal on the ballot, said Rep. Tony Dugger, a Republican from Hartville who sponsored the bill.

“We looked at the six-week early-voting proposal and decided it was just too much,” Dugger said. “Six days seemed like a better fit and a good compromise.”

The Democratic-backed proposal failed to garner enough signatures, leaving the six-day voting period as the only one on the November ballot.

Sen. Jolie Justus, a Democrat from Kanas City, doesn’t see the Republican-backed measure as a compromise. By restricting early voting to six days, and only on weekdays during normal business hours, she said the effect would be minimal but the harm could be long-lasting.

“This isn’t real early voting,” she said. “It adds a couple extra days for someone who can go during the work day. It’s not early voting in anything other than name. My concern is the legislature will now say they’ve already addressed it and refuse to enact real early voting in the future.”

Republican lawmakers who control the General Assembly voted to place the question on the ballot, but they’ve been critical of the idea in the past. That’s led many to wonder if the lawmakers would find funds for early voting in the Missouri budget.

Christian County Clerk Kay Brown, president of the Missouri Association of County Clerks and Election Authorities, said clerks don’t oppose early voting but do have concerns about the cost.

“Someone has to pay for it, and it would have a dramatic impact on the cost of running an election,” she said.

There’s no denying that there are additional costs associated with early voting, said Brian Newby, election commissioner for Johnson County, Kan. But while costs rise, the expenses incurred on Election Day can be reduced. Half of Johnson County voters cast an early ballot in 2008, he said.

“Our county’s population grew between elections,” he said, “but we were able to reduce the number of polling places open on Election Day.”