The Joplin Globe, Joplin, MO

March 3, 2013

Susan Redden: Commission recommends voting changes

By Susan Redden
Globe Staff Writer

JOPLIN, Mo. — No-excuse absentee voting is among the recommendations of an early voting commission convened by Secretary of State Jason Kander.

Recommendations of the commission, which included Joplin Mayor Melodee Colbert-Keane, were announced last week.

The panel said voters should be allowed to cast absentee ballots by mail as a convenience, rather than having to meet the requirements in state law, such as the voter being homebound or otherwise unable to go to the polls on election day.

Also recommended was the elimination of current in-person absentee to be replaced by early voting on voting equipment at central locations before election day.

For the November presidential elections, county clerks would be allowed to create satellite locations for early voting — and would be required to do so in jurisdictions with more than 175,000 registered voters. Jasper County for years has had “satellite” voting after a fashion, since there are elections offices in the Carthage courthouse and the Jasper County courts building in Joplin.

Kander also announced that he had launched a website — TheMissouriChannel.com — aimed at making state government more accessible to residents. As the state’s chief records keeper, Kander is responsible for managing both current and historical records of state government. He said the site will provide access to government information that currently is not readily available, such as archived audio files of floor debate from the Missouri Senate and House of Representatives. Currently, live-streaming audio on House and Senate debate is provided via the two chambers’ websites.

A wealth of data about activities of the General Assembly is available on House and Senate websites, including information on senators and representatives, their biographies, committees on which they serve and bills they sponsor and co-sponsor. The lawmakers also are easily accessible through the site — their individual web pages include addresses, telephone numbers and email addressees.

Residents who want to know about the progress of bills in the Legislature can use the “joint bill tracking” website maintained to monitor action on bills by the chambers. The site tracks bill activity as legislation is introduced, the process such as committee hearings, and action on the Senate and House floors.

Kander’s opponent in the November election, former state Rep. Shane Schoeller, is the new executive director of the Missouri Republican Party. Schoeller, of Willard, campaigned frequently in the area before November and returned to Joplin a week ago to attend the Jasper-Newton County Lincoln Days banquet.

Schoeller served three terms in the House, including two years as speaker pro tem. He also has served as a field representative for U.S. Sens. John Ashcroft and Kit Bond, then as a legislative assistant to then U.S. Rep. Roy Blunt and chief administrative aide to Secretary of State Matt Blunt.

Sequestration cuts

U.S. Sen. Claire McCaskill has announced that she will introduce legislation to cut pay for members of Congress if federal employees are furloughed during the sequester spending cuts that went into effect Friday.

McCaskill said federal employees are facing furloughs “that would result in a sizable pay cut — and there’s absolutely no reason members of Congress should exempt themselves. We can and should reach a balanced compromise to replace these damaging across-the-board pay cuts, but until we do, this is an obvious step to hold Congress accountable for the job we need to get done.”

Rank and file members of Congress make $174,000 annually; those in top leadership make more. The president’s annual salary is $400,000.