JEFFERSON CITY — The Democratic and Republican candidates for secretary of state each proposed Tuesday to end a campaign practice used by incumbent Secretary of State Matt Blunt in which candidates can get the names of people who have requested absentee ballots.
Blunt, a Republican running for governor, has asked county clerks to submit the names of people requesting absentee ballots to a staff member at the Missouri Republican Party. A Blunt spokesman said the intent is to target campaign information at the absentee voters — a tactic other candidates have used in the past.
State law allows candidates to request absentee voter lists from clerks in most counties. But it keeps the lists confidential until the Friday before an election in St. Louis city and county and Jackson County.
Democratic secretary of state candidate Robin Carnahan said Tuesday that, if elected, she would seek to expand that confidentiality to absentee voter lists statewide. Responding to Carnahan, Republican secretary of state candidate Catherine Hanaway said she also favored closing absentee voter lists in all counties.
Carnahan said it’s inequitable for absentee voters in urban areas to have their identities shielded from candidates while residents in rural areas do not.
State law effectively “subjects people (outside the Kansas City and St. Louis areas) who request absentee ballots to more sorts of potential harassment and targeting than regular voters” who cast their ballots in voting booths, Carnahan said.
State law makes it illegal to interfere with voters inside a polling place or to campaign within 25 feet of the outer door of a polling site on Election Day.
Hanaway said absentee voters — although they maybe casting their ballots from home — should have similar protections.
She said she favored closing absentee voter lists statewide, “because advocating to people that you know have requested an absentee ballot — timed with their receipt of that ballot — has the feeling of electioneering within more than 25 feet of the polling place.”
Blunt spokesman John Hancock defended the practice of campaigning to people based on absentee voter lists. Because they are voting sooner than others, absentee voters may miss out on the normal campaign advertisements and mailings.