JEFFERSON CITY, Mo. – Photo ID, which has been used for years in travel and other forms of commerce, appears to finally be coming to Missouri elections.
Meanwhile, ballot drop boxes – which critics allege have been poorly monitored invitations to voter fraud – would be banned in Missouri.
Both measures, as well as other election integrity reforms, were passed in an omnibus bill just before the end of the legislative session last week. The bill passed the House 97-47, having previously been approved by the Senate 23-11. It awaits Gov. Mike Parson’s all-but-certain signature.
Currently, Missourians can vote using government or school IDs, or a “current utility bill, bank statement, paycheck, government check or other government document that contains the name and address of the voter.”
Republicans around the country have prioritized voter ID laws since the 2020 presidential vote, which has left election-integrity doubts that linger still, thanks largely to late mail-in ballots, unsecured ballot drop boxes and last-minute changes in state laws.
House Bill 1878, sponsored by state Rep. John Simmons, R-Washington, would require a government-issued photo ID to be shown to vote in Missouri. Voters without photo ID would be allowed to cast a provisional ballot on election day, but for it to count the voter must return later that day to present a photo ID.
“The ultimate goal was better election integrity so that people have confidence,” Simmons told The Heartlander. “If there is any scrutiny, if there’s any tight race, we want to make sure that we can tell Missourians, ‘This is a fair election. Every legal vote that should have been counted was counted. And every illegal vote that shouldn’t have counted wasn’t.’ And that’s our responsibility.”
Although the voter ID portion was the main component of the bill – and certainly the most debated – HB 1878 eventually turned into an omnibus bill, with several election integrity reforms urged by Republicans.
Added onto the bill was authorizing the secretary of state to audit voter registration records of any election authority quarterly. If the state’s chief elections officer finds improper or illegal voter registrations, election authorities are required to remove the names in question.
The bill also bans ballot drop boxes – the new centerpiece for illegal ballot harvesting – and further secures electronic ballot tabulation by prohibiting vote-counting machines from being connected to the internet.
“After the chaos and uncertainty of the 2020 election, it was imperative that we tighten election laws in Missouri to further secure our elections,” state Sen. Eric Burlison, R-Battlefield, said in a press release. “I filed a similar bill this session, so I am thrilled my fellow legislators share my concerns when it comes to preserving the integrity of our elections. We need to regain the trust of Missourians that every election is fair and free, and I believe this bill accomplishes that goal.”
The legislation includes measures to essentially phase out “touch screen direct-recording electronic vote-counting machines” by 2024, according to the bill summary. Beginning January 2023, the policy requires the use of a paper ballot that is “hand-marked by the voter or in another manner authorized by Chapter 115,” which covers Missouri’s election laws.
Any election authority currently using the machines is able to continue doing so until Jan. 1, 2024. The bill also requires each election authority to allow a cybersecurity review of their office by the secretary of state every two years.
“Confidence in our election process is part of the bedrock of democracy,” Sen. Holly Rehder, R-Scott City, told The Heartlander. “Sen. Sandy Crawford [R-Buffalo] was diplomatic in her work to pass this bill, but strong on the points that we couldn’t leave this session without – voter ID, audits, banning ballot harvesting and changes to voting machines. We must have integrity in our elections. This bill ensures that Missourians can be confident now in our process across the state.”
Sen. Crawford was the senate handler of HB 1878 and sponsored many of the measures added onto it, including the cybersecurity and auditing provisions.
“People need to have confidence in their voting and make sure that when they see those voting numbers at the end, there’s no doubt,” Simmons said. “It’s common sense to protect election integrity. And to have election integrity is to show an ID to verify who you are.”