Three candidates for Missouri secretary of state agreed early voting should be implemented but differed on how soon and how ballots would be cast in a debate Sunday night at Stephens College.
Democratic nominee Robin Carnahan and Republican nominee and Missouri House Speaker Catherine Hanaway participated in a debate Thursday in Clayton. On Sunday, they were joined for the first time by Libertarian candidate Christopher Davis. Constitution party candidate Donna Ivanovich was unable to attend.
All three candidates present said in their opening statements that this year’s secretary of state election is one of the most important in state history because of the recently passed Help America Vote Act. The federal act, passed in 2002, set new rules for voter standards, requiring that ballots be cast electronically by 2006 and polls be made more accessible to voters with disabilities.
The candidates said they support early voting, a practice that allows voters to cast ballots before Election Day. Thirty states already allow early voting, according to Carnahan.
Davis said he supports “no excuse” early voting, which would enable anyone to vote absentee without giving a reason.
Hanaway said she discussed early voting with county clerks and supports the practice up to two weeks before an election. She added that under her plan, votes would have to be cast in person. Mail-in votes would still be allowed in situations where a voter physically could not make it to the poll.
Carnahan, who also supports early voting, criticized Hanaway because early-voting legislation wasn’t passed.
“Matt Blunt says he’s for it; Catherine says she for it. They were in charge, and we still don’t have it,” Carnahan said.
Hanaway said new requirements in the Help America Vote Act have prevented Republican leadership from passing early voting.
“I had not considered it for the two years I have been speaker for this very simple reason,” she said. “The federal Help America Vote Act was passed, and there were a great many law changes to be made, and we heard from county clerks that initially additional requirements were too much.”
Hanaway said she did not push through state early-voting legislation because local-level officials were already heavily burdened.
The candidates stressed the need for a statewide voter database. One audience member questioned why St. Louis polls were allowed to remain open late in 2000. The polls were kept open because voters’ names incorrectly were left off the registry. All the candidates said such a database would make it easier for poll workers to know who was allowed to vote.
The debate was sponsored by Stephens College, the Columbia Daily Tribune and the League of Women Voters.