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Columbia Missourian

Missouri House panel mulls voting locations for sexual predators

By JORDAN SHAPIRO/The Associated Press
March 5, 2013 | 10:43 a.m. CST

JEFFERSON CITY — Registered sex offenders would be required to vote at their local county clerk's office under a bill heard Tuesday that's intended to keep them away from public polling booths at schools and other places where children might be present.

Sponsoring Rep. Tim Remole, R-Excello, told the House Elections Committee that the measure would protect children in schools, child care centers or churches from potentially being assaulted. The committee did not vote on the bill Tuesday.

Missouri has more than 16,000 registered sex offenders. They can vote after being paroled and completing the terms of their probation.

Current law prevents a registered sex offender from residing within 1,000 feet of a school or loitering within 500 feet of a school building. A spokeswoman for the Missouri Secretary of State's office said registered offenders are not allowed to violate the state's sex offender laws in order to vote.

But Randolph County Clerk Will Ellis told the House committee that a registered sex offender voted at a school in his county last November. He said the legislation would remove a potential danger for children.

No one testified in opposition to the legislation. But the Missouri Association of County Clerks and Election Officials said the bill had some logistical issues. Association President Darryl Kempf said he would be required to spend money to turn his office into a polling place on Election Day.

Some House Elections Committee members said Missouri would also have to update its absentee voting laws to adopt Remole's plan. The measure would allow registered offenders to vote via absentee ballot if they are unable to cast their ballot at their county clerk's office. But Missouri currently only allows absentee ballots to be cast if people are not present in their home county or have a disability or religious objection that would prevent them from going to their polling place.