A brief November post-mortem, and Missouri notes on things to come

Hey Herd, we’re back! I took a little break after the November elections, which turned into a longer break than I was anticipating. Sorry about that, and I’ll certainly try not to let it happen too often. A lot has happened since November, of course. Today I want to talk about three things: takeaways from the November election, the Missouri ballot initiative process, and some bills to watch in the Missouri legislature.

What we learned from the November election

Missouri and Kansas had exactly the problems we might have expected in November: long lines in some polling places (especially in areas where polls had been moved or closed), and confusion in Missouri about the voter ID law. But for all that, we were spared any major national embarrassment, letting Florida and Georgia take the lead on that instead. In my own polling place in KCMO, voters waited 30-45 minutes in line before being able to cast their ballots. That’s far from ideal, but the voters mostly seemed undaunted.

Turnout was high statewide: 57.6% of registered Kansans voted, setting a record in a non-presidential election, and 58.2% of registered Missourians voted. Locally, the numbers varied, with suburban and rural areas posting higher turnout. According to KCUR, 49.5% of KCMO voters and 49.1% of WyCo voters showed, compared to 61.1% in Clay County, 62.9% in JoCo, 67.3% in Jackson County (outside of KC), and 69.9% in Platte County.

Nationwide, most voters found it to be easier than expected to vote in November, according to a Pew Research study. 76% of voters nationwide said voting was very easy, compared to 44% who expected it to be very easy when asked in October. The Pew study also found that most voters were confident in the results of the elections – 91% of voters were very confident or somewhat confident that votes were counted appropriately, and 77% of voters were very or somewhat confident that their local election systems were safe from hacking.

That’s all very good, but here’s a number I’m really interested in: 61% of people who didn’t vote in November wish they had. The two most common reasons people who wish they’d voted didn’t? 23% said it was too inconvenient for them to vote, and 22% said they either hadn’t registered or weren’t eligible. We’re going to look at some reasons for that, and some ways states and local election authorities could help, later in this post, and in future posts.

Missouri ballot initiatives

Kansas friends, I’ve got nothing else for you today. Missouri folks, the next few paragraphs are for you.

One thing that happened in the November election was that Clean Missouri, the ballot initiative focused on tightening ethics rules for elected officials and creating non-partisan districts, passed by a landslide. The amendment went into effect this month, bringing with it some probably inevitable fallout. First, Governor Parson and legislators on both sides of the aisle started talking about scrapping the amendment, overturning the will of the voters.

Missouri is also taking aim at the ballot initiative process itself. Secretary of State Jay Ashcroft tweets that his office has no priority “more important than initiative petition reform”. Representative Chrissy Sommer (R-St. Charles) has filed a bill that, among other changes, introduces a substantial fee for submitting ballot initiative permissions – $500 plus $0.40 per signature. How much would it cost to file an initiative petition if HB290 becomes law? According to the Secretary of State’s initiative petition handbook, a successful initiative needs just over 100,000 signatures to make a statutory change, or 160,000 for a constitutional amendment. At $500 plus 40 cents per signer, an initiative to change a law would run at least $40,500 in fees, and a constitutional amendment initiative would come to over $64,500.

On the other side of the General Assembly, Senator David Sater (R-29) has filed SB5, a similar bill to Sommer’s. The main difference is that his bill wants petition filers to pay $0.80 per signature – take the fees in the last paragraph and double them.

The Star doesn’t like it, and I don’t like it either. The ballot initiative process lets voters address issues that the legislature won’t, and it’s an important part of our democratic toolbox. We ought to hang on to that.

Other bills to watch in Missouri

Missouri legislators got right to work on a few other proposals that might affect your experience as a Missouri voter. Here’s a list of bills to consider, with my opinion on how they measure up to the basic principle of this site, which is that every eligible person ought to be able to vote and that government ought to be directed by the will of the people as expressed in the vote.

  • SB59, SB171: allows absentee voting for any reason. The cow says: I like it. Absentee voting makes it easier for everyone to vote, even the folks who show up and wait in line on election day.
  • HB202: allows absentee voting for any reason if you’re over 60. I like it okay, but would prefer to extend no-excuse absentee voting to everyone.
  • SB109, HB26: requires voters to register for a political party to vote in a primary election. I’m not as big a fan of this one, because I think it makes it harder for people to vote in primaries, and discourages independent voters.
  • HB27: requires local, state, and federal elections in Missouri to use the ranked-choice voting method. I am a big fan of ranked-choice voting, for a number of reasons – if you don’t know what ranked-choice voting is, stick around and I’ll tell you all about it.
  • HB28: requires local elections to use ranked-choice voting. I’d rather have HB27, above, but I’d take this one.
  • HB276: requires Missouri to wait 5 years before invalidating a voter’s registration due to inactivity. Since we currently strike voters from the rolls after 2 years, I think this is an improvement.
  • HB285: among other things, confirms that homeless people have the right to vote in Missouri, assuming they’re otherwise eligible. I can’t speak to the other provisions of this bill, but people without a permanent, regular address can have some unique challenges to voting, so I’m in favor of the idea. I’m not sure what the bill would actually do to help homeless people vote, though.
  • HB368: requires proper voter ID for absentee voting. I admit to being a little puzzled about what this would actually change in the law. I’m assigning myself this one and HB285 as homework, and I’ll try to give you a better read on them soon.
  • HB471: allows voters to electronically sign petitions for ballot initiatives. I’m intrigued.
  • And finally, HB543: Requires electronic voting machines to produce paper records, and requires election authorities to audit election results to make sure that voting machines are accurately recording votes. On first read, I like this one as well. Security and accuracy of elections are important, and the two major provisions of this bill are among the recommendations of people who seem to know what’s up with securing elections. That’s not really my area of expertise, though, so I’m going to try to get an expert to weigh in here.

Whew. That’s a lot to keep track of, but hang with me, and I’ll try to keep up with these bills as they progress, or don’t progress, as the case may be. Thanks for reading!


Vote tomorrow!

All right, folks – last words from us about the November 6 elections. I know you’re busy, so I’ll be brief.

  • Polls are open in Kansas from 7 a.m. to 7 p.m. In Missouri, they’re open from 6 a.m. to 7 p.m.
  • If you’re still holding on to a Kansas early voting ballot for some reason, walk it into your assigned polling place.
  • Bring appropriate ID (Kansas/Missouri), your notes or marked sample ballot (make yourself a cheat sheet with BallotReady if you haven’t already done it – it’ll save you some grief at the polls while you try to remember what you wanted), and your patience.
  • If you have trouble at the polls, ask a poll worker for help! Most of us actually want to help you vote, that’s what we’re there for.
  • Ask for a provisional ballot if you need one.
  • If you’re harassed or intimidated at the polls, or if you think you’ve been wrongly refused your right to vote, call the ACLU’s election protection number. That’s 1-866-OUR-VOTE for help in English, or 1-888-VE-Y-VOTA for help in Spanish. You can also file a complaint with your election board and your Secretary of State’s office.
  • Use a paper ballot if you can. If you have to use a touchscreen voting machine, make sure you review your choices. Machines vary by election authority, but there should be at least one opportunity for you to review and confirm your votes before the machine prints your ballot or records your votes. If something looks wrong, alert a poll worker.
  • If you are voting with a paper ballot, make sure to look at both sides of the ballot. If you’re using a machine, watch for arrows or other indicators at the bottom of each screen that mean that there’s more to the question, or candidates you haven’t seen yet.
  • If you mess up on a paper ballot, you can hand it back to the poll workers you got it from and ask them to spoil it and give you a new one.
  • Remember, if you’re in line when the polling place closes, you have the right to vote. Don’t leave!
  • Jackson County, MO voters: if you’re befuddled by the county charter questions (Questions 1-7), don’t stress too much about it. There’s already a charter change commission scheduled to convene in 2019. If you want to dig into the particulars of these issues, you can check out the full text of the proposed changes. If you’d rather get your guidance from the local paper of record, the Star has a run-down of recommendations.

Thanks for reading, and we’ll see you at the polls!

When is a voter ID law not a voter ID law?


(I wanted to start this post with something clever, but didn’t want to bury the important stuff.)

It’s true, though: Missouri passed a law a few years back that everybody said required folks to have a photo ID to vote. But it doesn’t. In fact, last week a judge told the Secretary of State’s office to stop telling people they needed a photo ID. Because you don’t. You just have to have something that establishes your identity.

If your ID happened to be something that wasn’t a current, valid, Missouri photo ID, the folks at your polling place were supposed to have you sign a statement that said that you understood that you needed to get a photo ID, but they didn’t stop you from voting. Now, the polling place should not even ask you to sign that statement.

Here’s what you can use to establish your identity for voting purposes in Missouri:

  • A current Missouri driver’s license or non-driver ID
  • An expired Missouri driver’s license or non-driver ID
  • A passport
  • A military or dependent ID
  • An employee photo ID issued by a department of the state or federal government
  • A student ID issued by a college or other post-high-school educational institution
  • A driver’s license or non-driver ID from a state that isn’t Missouri
  • A voter registration card
  • A utility bill sent to your name at your current address
  • A paycheck stub or government check stub with your current name and address
  • A bank statement with your current name and address

Any of those things will allow you to cast a vote in the usual way in Missouri, as long as you’re a registered voter. Now, if you show up to the poll and don’t have any of those things, but you are a registered voter, you can still vote, but you’ll have to vote on a provisional ballot (remember provisional ballots?).

So if you don’t have a photo ID, or you lost your driver’s license the day before the election, don’t despair. Come vote anyway.

“Clean Missouri” back on the ballot

Maybe I’m just paying more attention than usual to the ballot process for November’s election, but it seems like November’s crop of proposed amendments and legislative issues is a little more dramatic than usual. We’ve got two competing amendments looking to legalize medical marijuana in entirely different ways, we’ve got an initiative to raise the state’s minimum wage coming up after the state ruled that cities have no business raising their own minimum wage, and then there’s the courtroom drama. Amendment 1,  the Lobbying, Campaign Finance, and Redistricting Initiative, (better known as Clean Missouri) just survived a major court challenge and is back on the ballot after a circuit judge ordered it off the ballot last week.

What’s the trouble with Amendment 1? Opponents say it’s poorly written and tries to make too many unrelated changes at once. Supporters say opponents are afraid of the reforms it will require. Let’s break it down.

Amendment 1 has four main ideas:

  1. Legislative transparency – Under this amendment, all legislative records would be classed as “public records”, including records of legislative proceedings and votes. Members of the public would also be guaranteed the right to record legislative meetings, so long as they weren’t being disruptive. Missouri currently has a Sunshine Law, but it’s a state statute, not a constitutional provision.
  2. Redistricting – Amendment 1 would make major changes to the way that state legislative districts are drawn. That might not sound very exciting, but it could have a huge effect on state government and who represents you. Right now, legislative districts are drawn by committees of the state legislature, and approved by the governor. This means that current state lawmakers have some freedom to set up districts in a way that gives them the best chance of re-election. Amendment 1 would create a non-partisan position, state demographer, and require the person in that position to draw districts that promote competition between the parties. The amendment also includes some ideas about how to use math to check whether a district is fair and competitive or not. (Your humble correspondent is a HUGE NERD about redistricting, but I don’t want to get too into the mathematics of it here. That’s another post for another day.)
  3. Lobbying – The proposed Amendment would require anybody who serves as a legislator or a legislative employee to wait two years before becoming a paid lobbyist, or even looking for a job as a paid lobbyist. The Amendment also limits lobbyist gifts to legislators to things worth $5 or less. There’s an exception here – if you are related to a legislator, the limit doesn’t apply. I imagine that’s so we don’t see people getting in trouble because they gave their cousin, who happens to be a Missouri lawmaker, a birthday present. But I also imagine that we might see a new trend of lobbying firms hiring legislators’ relatives. Maybe. Unless that’s already illegal. (Note to self: Is that already illegal? It’s an interesting question.)
  4. Campaign finance – This is the big one. First off, the Amendment would ban the legislature from passing any law allowing for unlimited campaign contributions. Then, it would limit donations to candidate campaigns – any person or committee would only be able to give $2,000 to a campaign to elect a state representative, or $2,500 to elect a state senator. There’s some other business in there about how it’s not a good idea to form sock puppet committees to make more donations, or to pretend to be someone else, that sort of thing. It also stops Missouri candidates from taking money from federal PACs unless the donor PAC is registered appropriately in Missouri and agrees to play by Missouri’s rules. Finally, it bans candidates from campaigning on state property, which, frankly, I thought was already illegal. But there you are.

So that’s what’s in the Amendment. Still with me? Okay, good. If you want to get further into the details of Amendment 1, the full version of the petition is available from the Secretary of State’s website.

The legal challenge was brought by the Missouri Chamber of Commerce and Industry. Their complaint was focused on a rule that proposed Amendments have to amend only a single article of the state Constitution, and have a single purpose. Initially, a Cole County judge agreed that the initiative was too broad. But today, an appellate court overturned that decision, saying that the single purpose of the initiative was “regulating the legislature to limit the influence of partisan or other special interests”. So Amendment 1 is back on the ballot for now, but today’s decision is likely to be appealed again, to the Missouri Supreme Court. Whatever happens, folks who want to strike this issue from the ballot will have to act fast. The usual deadline for changes to ballots is six weeks before the date of the election, and that’s this coming Tuesday, 9/26.