JEFFERSON CITY - A law passed in the Missouri House Thursday would require voters to have photo identification in order to vote. The bill also included other changes to Missouri voting laws.
The vote Thursday was largely along party lines, with 109 voting to pass the legislation, and 48 voting 'no.' The legislation is House Bill 738, and it was sponsored by State Rep. Don Rone (R-Portageville), who represents New Madrid, Pemiscot, Mississippi and Scott counties.
The bill not only requires photo identification to vote, but it will also require the use of paper ballots through the removal of electronic voting language. Although photographic identification is required to cast a regular ballot, a provisional ballot may be cast with any type of documentation currently allowed for voting.
Along with this, the bill allows for no-excuse absentee voting, starting the third Tuesday before an election, giving voters 3 weeks to get their absentee ballots in. Boone County Clerk Brianna Lennon said the Clerk's Association has worked to get it for years.
"We've been trying to get no excuse absentee voting for several years," she said, "because we think it's really important that voters have that opportunity and it's very helpful from an administrative standpoint."
Lennon explained that by giving voters the option to vote absentee, in-person, over the duration of three weeks, the responsibilities of Election Day are spread out over a period of time. She said this allows administration to give better assistance to voters if needed, because not everything has to happen in one day.
When looking at last year, Lennon said that after offering the seventh excuse for absentee voting, in regard to COVID-19, the clerks office saw a large influx of people coming in-person to vote absentee. While she did say the increase in absentee voting did not increase overall voter turnout, slightly over 50% of voters in Boone County chose to vote absentee, in-person, in the clerk's office.
Not only was this absentee voting important for voters, by giving them more options and more convenience to vote, but by Election Day, about 30% of voters in Boone County had already voted.
While the Clerk's Association has not made a general consensus on the bill due to its "mixed bag" nature, they are very supportive of the provision regarding no excuses absentee voting.
The legislation continued on with other provisions regarding elections in Missouri.
For local election authorities, the bill requires them to be members of the Center for Internet Security. Language also prohibits changes to election laws in the 6 months leading up to a presidential election. And finally, the bill repeals mail-in voting provisions, which were previously allowed in 2020 due to COVID-19.
Although the bill has already been passed in the house, it still has to go to the Senate, which Lennon described as "a long way to go."