Hours after the polls closed Tuesday night, too many Missourians were still waiting to vote in the midterm elections. The long lines that greeted voters at the polls and assorted Election Day glitches combined to underscore the need for early voting in the state.
Advanced voting would not have averted all the embarrassing problems that played out in Missouri on Tuesday. But the avoidable delays and other complications that resulted from forcing the vast majority of voters to cast their ballots on the same day should be yet another wake-up call for Republicans to finally embrace early voting.
Some voters in the Kansas City area were subjected to hours-long wait times. Widespread confusion over voter ID laws led to claims of suppression from voters in Kansas City, St. Louis, Lee’s Summit and other Missouri cities.
One Kansas City family was denied a vote after allegedly being given incorrect registration information by election board workers.
Power outages temporarily affected voters in Platte County. Other voters encountered broken ballot-counting machines in Clay County. In a move that did not inspire confidence, election officials asked people to place ballots in cardboard boxes.
Frustrated voters lashed out about the broken machines. One asked: “Why does this happen every single time?”
“There didn’t seem to be a backup plan. No plan B,” another posted on social media.
Early voting not only would have thinned the crowds at polling sites Tuesday, but it also would have given election officials additional opportunities to work through in advance some of the questions and confusion that emerged at the ballot box.
The voting process should be as easy and secure as possible. But Missouri lawmakers have failed to advance any meaningful measures at the Capitol.
Missouri Secretary of State Jay Ashcroft and other Republican leaders share the blame. Ashcroft’s office fell short on Tuesday. And the resulting logjam at the polls was unacceptable.
An effective early voting law would allow voters to cast ballots at convenient times and locations, would shorten lines on Election Day and would prevent a repeat of Tuesday’s headaches. Responsibility for fixing this broken system falls squarely on the shoulders of state lawmakers.
More than 2.3 million people — or 55 percent of registered voters — cast ballots in Missouri Tuesday. The total was the highest in more than two decades for a midterm election.
USA Today reported that 35 million Americans voted ahead of Election Day this year. According to the Associated Press, 42 percent of voters nationwide now cast their ballots early.
There is an obvious demand for early voting in Missouri. Just ask the voters who were still standing in line on a chilly night after the polls closed Tuesday. This election should be the last in the state without the option.
Lawmakers in Jefferson City should get on the right side of this issue and stop defending long lines and unnecessary hassles on Election Day. Passing a common-sense early voting measure should be a priority in the next legislative session.