A state senator from our area, Dan Hegeman, seeks to strike a balance between election access and confidence in the results.
Best of luck in this political environment. The rhetoric over election legislation has reached a fever pitch, with any attempt to set up rules or limits seen as examples of “voter suppression.” This shouldn’t be so any more than one should assume that mailed ballots are fraudulent.
The problem with the election of 2020 wasn’t that Donald Trump lied about widespread fraud. It’s that his message found such fertile ground, reaching its disastrous pinnacle on Jan. 6.
Elections need to be free of fraud. But they also need to be free of doubt. That is the point that is missed in the shouting over voting law changes, as illustrated in the controversy in Georgia.
In Missouri, Hegeman proposes two significant changes, one aimed at access and the other at confidence in its results. Senate Bill 282 seeks to allow no-excuse absentee voting, ending the charade of having to come up with a “reason” for being out of town on Election Day. Some will sniff that this isn’t enough, that no-excuse absentee voting should be allowed through the mail or on a more open-ended basis. This is all fair ground for debate, but it misses an essential point.
Agreed-upon parameters and rules are necessary, especially regarding the timeline for early voting and the deadline for accepting ballots. An election with constantly shifting rules brings the chaos of 2020, when abrupt changes, such as Pennsylvania’s move to accept ballots without a postmark up to three days after Election Day, sowed seeds of doubt.
The biggest confidence-building measure of SB 282 is a requirement to present a photo ID in order to vote. This is something that 63% of Missourians supported and something that Buchanan County election officials estimate that 9 in 10 voters already show at the polls.
That this has become the hill to die on as far as voter access makes little sense, especially since the Missouri Department of Revenue has allowed one free non-driver photo ID to anyone who does not have a license. The information is on the dor.mo.gov website, although it should be easier to find in courthouses and license bureaus.
But that would be a common-sense solution, and those who oppose a photo ID or other confidence measures aren’t too interested in that. In February, Justice Clarence Thomas wrote a dissent in the Pennsylvania voting case that noted, “an election free from strong evidence of systemic fraud is not alone sufficient for election confidence. Also important is the assurance that fraud will not go undetected.”
The response from the left was savage. Imagine what would have happened if his had been the majority opinion.