By Susan Redden
Globe Staff Writer
JOPLIN, Mo. —
Joplin Mayor Melodee Colbert-Kean was named last week to a state commission that will study early voting.
Missouri Secretary of State Jason Kander, who announced the appointment of the commission on Friday, said the goal of the group will be to evaluate the most efficient, fair and secure way to allow eligible Missouri residents to cast ballots on election days. The commission will meet throughout February in Jefferson City to discuss the merits of early voting and give residents the opportunity to comment.
“We have to preserve security in our elections while increasing efficient access to eligible voters,” Kander said. “An affordable plan for early voting could help alleviate long lines at the polls on election day by adding a much-needed convenience for Missourians across the state.”
Several county clerks, and current and former elected officials have been named to the 11-member panel, along with representatives of military interests including John Comerford, former chairman of the Missouri Veterans Commission.
Two bills involving voting by members of the military — one sponsored by Rep. Charlie Davis, R-Webb City, who is in charge of the House Veterans Committee — are among about a dozen bills dealing with elections and voting that have been proposed for this legislative session.
Proposals for early or advance voting have been introduced by Sen. Jolie Justus, D-Kansas City, and Sen. Gina Walsh, D-St. Louis County. Both would allow advance voting from 7 a.m. to 7 p.m. at central locations and satellites starting on the third Wednesday — and on Saturday mornings — before an election.
Currently, residents may cast absentee ballots at county clerks’ offices during business hours starting six weeks before an election and on the Saturday morning before an election. Absentee voting is supposed to be for the benefit of anyone who it going to be out of town or otherwise unable to vote on election day, while there would be no such restriction on advance voting.
At least a half-dozen election proposals up for consideration in the Legislature would require voters to present a government-issued photo ID at the polls before being allowed to vote.
One has been the subject of a contentious hearing in which proponents said the change is needed to combat election fraud and detractors said the requirement would amount to voter suppression.
Republican lawmakers have backed the photo ID requirement for years, but bills passed in previous sessions have been overturned in court or vetoed by Gov. Jay Nixon. This session, there are veto-proof majorities in both the House and Senate.
Ironically, the same voters who sent Republican supermajorities to the House and the Senate elected Kander — a Democrat — as the state’s chief election official. Photo ID was a campaign centerpiece for former state Rep. Shane Schoeller, R-Willard, who lost to Kander in 2012.
Missouri House Speaker Tim Jones has been added to the list of speakers for the annual Newton-Jasper County Lincoln Days banquet set for Saturday, Feb. 23, at the Butcher’s Block Banquet Center, 499 W. Fountain Road.
Other scheduled speakers are Tom Schweich, state auditor; Ed Martin, newly elected state Republican Party chairman; and state Sen. Ron Richard, R-Joplin.
In Newton County, tickets may be purchased from Nick Myers at 5031 S. Range Line Road; by calling 417-623-2214; or by calling Gina Rodriguez, Neosho, 417-825-4825.
In Jasper County, tickets are available at the Software Center, 2604 E. Seventh St., or by calling Duane Eberhardt, 417-624-2973.
Susan Redden is a staff writer for the Globe. She can be reached at email@example.com or 417-627-7258. Follow her on Twitter @Susan_Redden.