Bond says early voting lawsuit not necessary

Despite the senator’s own recent problems voting, he thinks the process is adequate.
Tuesday, August 10, 2004 | 12:00 a.m. CDT; updated 6:42 p.m. CDT, Sunday, June 29, 2008

WASHINGTON — Missouri doesn’t need early voting, GOP Sen. Kit Bond said Monday, criticizing a lawsuit filed by St. Louis leaders and Democratic lawmakers.

“I know there’s been some talk about it; I don’t think it’s a good idea,” Bond said.

Democratic Rep. William Lacy Clay, a plaintiff in the lawsuit, urged Bond to support early voting after reading that Bond had trouble voting in last week’s primary election.

Bond said, “The current system we have of absentee ballots is adequate. There are plenty of costs associated with elections. We ought to devote our resources to making sure absentee voting and voting on Election Day are thoroughly implemented to make it as easy as possible for all Missourians to vote.”

Bond and Clay played prominent roles in the Election Day chaos in St. Louis during the 2000 presidential election. They also sparred over federal election reforms that toughened identification requirements.

It rankled Clay to read last week about Bond’s experience voting in the Aug. 3 primary. The senator went to his polling place of nearly 40 years, but officials couldn’t find his name on the eligible voter list. He and his wife, Linda, produced voter identification cards and photo IDs and were allowed to cast ballots.

Mail snafus also kept Bond’s son, Sam, from receiving an absentee ballot in Washington.

“I tell you what, voting is not easy,” Sen. Bond said afterward.

Clay said that was exactly the point of the lawsuit, which asks the Cole County Circuit Court for an order allowing an early voting period before the Nov. 2 general election.

“For the last three and a half years, he’s been hollering vote fraud,” Clay said. “Now, hopefully he sees the mistakes that can be made by election authorities.”

Clay sent a letter to the editor to several St. Louis newspapers publicizing Bond’s experience. The two-term congressman wrote that he hoped Bond would “be more sensitive to the rights of those eligible voters who were unfairly disenfranchised” on Election Day 2000.

Clay has argued that voters were prevented from casting ballots. He was part of Democratic lawsuits to hold open the polls that evening after 7 p.m.

Bond has argued the lawsuits were a criminal attempt to encourage voting by those not legally entitled to do so.

Clay said, “He has a suspicious eye toward St. Louis; I think it is wrong.”

Bond said the lawsuit is “just continuing the wonderful tradition of St. Louis city.”

“The rest of Missouri knows that St. Louis in the past always wanted to have an advantage,” he said.

Bond said early voting would not have applied to the problems his family experienced last week.

The city of St. Louis is the lead plaintiff in the early-voting lawsuit, but plaintiffs are seeking an order that would apply statewide.

At issue is a 2002 state law revising Missouri election law. Republican Secretary of State Matt Blunt, the lawsuit’s defendant and the Republican candidate for governor, maintains the law doesn’t permit a general early voting period and only requires authorities to develop an early-voting plan.

Clay and other plaintiffs insist the 2002 law allows, and requires, advance voting for general elections.

If the lawsuit succeeds, Missouri voters could cast ballots for president, governor and other local officials anytime from Oct. 19-27. Absentee voting is allowed starting six weeks before an election, but only if a voter will be unable to vote in person on Election Day.

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