As the Missouri General Assembly finishes the session in the midst of a pandemic, it is outrageous that some lawmakers are rushing to pass voter suppression measures and other adverse legislation when citizens aren’t able to testify in person and the legislators should be concentrating on pandemic relief.
One egregious piece of legislation is SJR 38, which would undermine the redistricting reforms of Amendment 1, known as Clean Missouri and approved by a majority of Missouri voters in 2018. It was quickly passed, will be on the November ballot and should be soundly rejected by voters.
Another example is HCS for SB 552, a 75-page omnibus bill that is problematic at any time but especially so in the middle of a pandemic. Although this bill includes a minor change to absentee voting, which allows the excuse for concerns about COVID-19, it still would require notarization, which is very difficult in the current situation.
It mandates changes to the initiative petition rules to put additional burdens and high costs on the right of the people to address grievances to the legislature and gives the secretary of state and attorney general greater authority to block initiatives they disagree with.
This bill brings back strict voter photo ID, eliminating all other forms of nonphoto identification and eliminates the requirement for advance notice of the change by the secretary of state. This push for voter photo ID, previously struck down by the Missouri Supreme Court, has also been added to HCS for SB 725.
The threat to our voting rights is very real. Since both underlying bills are working their way through the Senate and the House, they could head to the governor’s desk.
There is no reason to ram these changes through the legislature during a pandemic when there is no oversight by the public. Contact your state representative and Sen. Caleb Rowden to vote no on these bills and all the bills that have not received public oversight. And ask the governor to veto these bills if they reach his desk.
Marilyn McLeod is president of the League of Women Voters of Columbia-Boone County.