Republican lawmakers push for election changes to increase integrity, despite lack of voter fraud

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JEFFERSON CITY, Mo. – Some Missouri Republican lawmakers want more election laws to increase election integrity, even though the secretary of state said there is no evidence of voter fraud in the state.

After almost all election reform failed in the General Assembly earlier this year, some House members discussed Tuesday their ideas to make sure elections are safe and fair.

“It was a lot that was left on the table,” Rep. Dan Shaul (R-Imperial) said. “What I think we have to worry about now is the perception of the trustworthiness of it. I believe they were fair and transparent, now we have to work on the trustworthy side.”

Shaul is the chairman of the House Elections and Election Officials committee which met Tuesday for the first time since May. He told members of the 28 election bills that passed out of the House, only one passed the Senate and received the governor’s signature.

“In my eyes, it’s very disappointing that no more action took place on the east wing,” Shaul said.

Back in May, Shaul said he was frustrated with the Senate for not making election reform a priority. In a letter sent to Gov. Mike Parson when the session ended, Shaul and six other Republicans on the committee asked the governor to order members back to Jefferson City this summer. Parson told reporters last week at the Missouri State Fair he has no plan to call a special session before lawmakers return in January.

“We want to make sure that everybody when they put their ballot in, feels as though it’s been counted,” Shaul said. “Everybody’s vote should count.”

Rep. Ann Kelley (R-Lamar) testified to the committee after she attended a voter fraud symposium, held by MyPillow Chief Executive Mike Lindell in South Dakota.

“If we have any doubt at all whether or not our elections are safe, we need to figure out and do something,” Kelley said. “We must do everything to reveal the weakness in our elections and fix it by creating an election process system that restores faith in our vote.”

Kelley told members the state must do away with the direct reading electronic machines (DRE) used for voting because of the ability for a machine to be hacked.

Committee members on the other side of the aisle believe overreacting will affect voter turnout.

“This planting the seed in people’s head that our elections aren’t secure, so things like this in the past have gone to disenfranchise voters,” Rep. Kevin Windham (D-Hillsdale) said.

Rep. Donna Baringer (D-St. Louis) told members the state’s weakness is not elections, it’s other systems.

“As we are planting fear in people about our elections right now, I need people to understand that the state of Missouri needs to look at cyberattacks, but we need to look at them how they would destroy us in this state,” Baringer said.

Rep. Joe Adams (D-University City) said his office has not received any phone calls or emails from concerned constituents over Missouri elections. He believes people keep making up the problems.

One of the big items on the agenda during the session for Republican lawmakers included requiring photo ID to vote. Another provision under election reform is only allowing voters to use paper ballots.

“Even though we heard testimony that the election equipment is not connected to the internet, to codify that in law would be a big step as well,” the chief of staff for the secretary of state Trish Vincent said.

Vincent told members the secretary of state wants to make it harder to change the constitution by amending the state statute to require at least 50 percent of the votes to pass a ballot question. 

“When we have a low turnout and 14% of the electorate changes what’s in the constitution, it’s pretty sad,” Vincent said.

Legislation that was introduced last year but didn’t pass would have increased the fee to $500. Medicaid expansion, medical marijuana, and Clean Missouri were all on the ballot by the initiative petition process.

“We feel like these are blatant attempts to silence the voices of Missouri voters because many legislators were upset by certain initiatives that were introduced and passed by the voted of the people in last year’s election and in the past,” advocacy director for the Nation Council of Jewish Women, St. Louis chapter Jen Bernstein said.

The League of Women Voters of Missouri said they want the committee to focus on increasing voter turnout.

“We do not see any need for legislation to limit the petition process in Missouri or to increase the election security,” President Marilyn McLeod said “We think this committee should look for ways to increase voter participation and not limit it.”

The committee plans to hold another meeting on Sept. 14 to hear testimony on requiring photo ID to vote.

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