JEFFERSON CITY — Differences over voting requirements and ballot summaries for initiatives that appear before voters are playing a significant role in the campaign for the Missouri post responsible for overseeing elections.
Republican Shane Schoeller and Democrat Jason Kander are at odds over Missouri's voter photo identification proposals and whether a new panel should have sway over the ballot summaries that the secretary of state prepares for initiatives. Those are two of the biggest differences as the two House colleagues compete to succeed Democratic Secretary of State Robin Carnahan, who is not seeking a third term.
Debate has persisted for years about whether voters should be required to show a government-issued photo ID at the polls. The Republican-led legislature has pushed the idea while Democrats generally have opposed it. Currently, Missourians can show a driver's license or other government-issued photo ID, but state law also allows voters to provide documents that do not contain photographs, such as copies of utility bills or bank statements listing their names and addresses.
Schoeller contends that Missourians want more stringent identification requirements and has made a photo ID law a hallmark of his campaign. He contends Missouri elections currently are exposed to voter fraud that dilutes legitimate votes.
"I want to make sure every vote is respected because on the day of the election you want to give the voter every confidence that every measure has been taken in order to make sure that the outcome of that election is exactly how the voters voted," he said.
Kander has called recent photo ID legislation "extreme and unfair," saying the proposed restrictions on what constitutes a valid ID would exclude military identification. As an alternative to what has been suggested in Missouri, he points to Idaho where voters who do not bring a required photo ID can sign a sworn affidavit and cast a standard ballot.
Kander also supports an early voting period that would allow Missourians to cast ballots before Election Day without needing to be incapacitated or traveling, as is currently required to vote by absentee ballot.
Besides voting, Schoeller has suggested changes to the ballot summaries for initiatives appearing before voters. He wants to establish a new commission — composed of people selected by legislative leaders — with the authority to consider complaints about the fairness and accuracy of the summaries written by the secretary of state. That is a response to recent controversy and lawsuits claiming Carnahan's summaries were insufficient and unfair. This summer, a Cole County judge rewrote the summary Carnahan had prepared for a health insurance ballot measure.
Kander blasts the idea of a commission and contends it would inject more politics. He argues it is the secretary of state's job to be fair and nonpartisan.
"When I was given a mission in the Army, I didn't pass that mission off to some other soldier. And I'm not sure why Shane Schoeller is trying to pass the buck to politicians in Jefferson City," Kander said.
The Missouri secretary of state oversees elections, regulates securities, handles business registration, publishes state regulations and maintains official documents.
Heading into the campaign's final month, Kander reported nearly $1.1 million in his bank account while Schoeller had just over $297,000.
Kander, of Kansas City, jumped into the secretary of state's race the same day Carnahan dropped out. Before joining the House in 2009, Kander, 31, served as a military intelligence officer in Afghanistan and investigated corruption and espionage within the Afghan government. He signed up after the Sept. 11, 2001, terrorist attacks.
Military experiences frequently are woven in as context when Kander discusses his policy positions. In his first ad, Kander notes that he was advised to write his blood type on his boots — making future tough decisions not so daunting.
Schoeller, 41, worked at the joint office for U.S. Sens. John Ashcroft and Kit Bond where he fielded constituent complaints and concerns. Later, he worked for Roy Blunt when Blunt was elected to Congress. He worked as the chief administrative aide in the Missouri secretary of state's office under Matt Blunt, an experience that Schoeller said exposed him to the office's responsibilities.
Schoeller, of Willard, won a state House seat in 2006 and advanced to a post in leadership as the House speaker pro tem.
Calling himself a conservative, Schoeller has sought to link Kander to Carnahan's administration while drawing attention to issues that extend beyond the secretary of state's immediate portfolio. Schoeller traveled the state on an agricultural tour and has criticized Kander on environmental and gun issues while calling him a liberal.
"People want to know about who you are and the values that you represent," Schoeller said.
Kander has launched his own statewide tour focused on small business issues and has drawn a spotlight on ethics. Earlier, he criticized Schoeller about a driver's license office previously operated by the Republican's wife and called for bolstering state campaign finance and ethics laws.
"The chief elections officer of the state should be someone who talks about the true fraud in our elections, which I believe to be our campaign finance laws," Kander said. "And as secretary of state, I will work very hard with members of both parties to pass ethics reform and campaign reform."
Also running for secretary of state is Libertarian Party candidate Cisse Spragins of Kansas City and Constitution Party candidate Justin Harter of Columbia.