JEFFERSON CITY, Mo. – Amid lingering concerns about election integrity across the country, Missouri Secretary of State Jay Ashcroft says voters should have “great confidence” in the Show-Me State’s Nov. 8 results.
“Our office has made the decision that a good election is an election that has accessibility, security and credibility,” Ashcroft told The Heartlander. “And we expect the state of Missouri to always have all three of those, not just one or two.”
Backing up Ashcroft’s claims of Missouri’s robust election operations is House Bill 1878. Passed and signed into law earlier this year, it includes numerous measures to strengthen the security of Missouri’s elections and address ongoing concerns about voter fraud.
One of the main components of HB 1878 is requiring a government-issued photo ID in order to cast a ballot. While Democrats nationally have long-criticized photo ID requirements to vote, Ashcroft – along with the vast majority of Republican voters and elected officials – could not be happier that it’s finally law in Missouri.
“We think that’ll make people a lot more confident in our elections,” Ashcroft said. “It will make it more difficult for anyone to cheat, and it’ll make it easier for us to prosecute people that want to cheat.”
Ashcroft emphasized that if people don’t have a government-issued photo ID, they are still allowed to vote but must do so with a provisional ballot until their identity can be verified.
“We have to get a little bit of extra information from you,” he said of those using provisional ballots. “Once the polls have closed, there will be further verification of your identity. Once we verify your identity, we’ll then pull that ballot out and count it.”
Although voter ID was the main component of the bill, Republican legislators eventually added several other election security reforms.
The bill authorizes the secretary of state to audit voter registration records of any election entity in the state quarterly. If the state’s chief elections officer finds improper or illegal voter registrations, election authorities are required to remove the names in question.
“That’s great, really for two reasons,” Ashcroft said. “One, it encourages election authorities to double their efforts on cleaning up their voter roles. And two, of course for those who just won’t do it, it gives us affirmative authority to review, withhold funds, and to make it public if they’re not doing that.”
The bill also banned ballot drop boxes – which critics allege have been poorly monitored invitations to voter fraud – and further secured electronic ballot tabulation by prohibiting vote-counting machines from having the ability to connect to the internet. Missouri also now requires the use of paper ballots for votes to count, as opposed to electronic voting machines.
Ashcroft encourages anyone with continued unease about election security to be involved and get an up-close view of everything that goes on during election day.
“I would invite any Missourian who has any questions about our elections to be a poll worker, to be a poll judge, to see what’s actually happening and come behind the curtain,” he said. “We want as much visibility as possible into the process, as long as it does not reveal how an individual voted.”
Of the ballot initiatives up for a vote Tuesday, the most publicized is undoubtedly Amendment 3, which would legalize recreational marijuana alongside other marijuana reforms.
While he will be voting against it, Ashcroft noted that even proponents of legalization oppose Amendment 3 because, as he notes, a majority of the bill will be moot if the federal government continues on its path of progressively accepting marijuana.
“I do not think that having more people stoned on Main Street is good for our state or good for our country,” he said. “But even if you do like the idea of decriminalizing marijuana, this doesn’t really do it.
“It decriminalizes it partly, but if the federal government – and it seems to be moving in this direction – actually moves it from a Schedule I to a Schedule II drug at the federal level, we’ll still have constitutional prohibitions against it in the state of Missouri if Amendment 3 passes.”
For those who feel uninspired to vote this year or feel like their vote doesn’t count, Ashcroft emphasizes that each single vote carries much more weight in midterm elections due to lower voter turnout. And if voters aren’t happy about something – anything – then their elected representatives need to feel that on election day, he argues.
“Unless you think they’re doing everything perfectly in Jefferson City and Washington, D.C. – which I don’t know of anyone who believes that – then we, the people, need to get involved and we need to make changes.
“Elections are important for two reasons. Not only to elect the right people, but also to put a little fear of the voters in the minds of those who are in office to make sure they’re representing the people and not some other interests.”