JEFFERSON CITY, Mo. – Changes to election laws in the state of Missouri have some voters speaking out.
Dozens gathered on the Missouri Capitol lawn Wednesday for Missouri Voting Rights Lobby Day to make their voices heard about the handful of bills making their way through the General Assembly.
“We are here today to call out the spate of restrictive voting bills being advanced in the state of Missouri as part of a national trend targeting the access to the right to vote,” organizer of the Missouri Voter Protection Coalition Denise Lieberman said.
Some of the changes the Missouri Voter Protection Coalition spoke in opposition to are the bills requiring photo ID to vote, like House Bills 334 and 738, that both have passed out of the Senate and are pending voter approval.
“Voter ID discriminates against ethnic minority and hurts elderly voters that might not be able to access the documents for certification,” Rep. Ashley Bland-Manlove (D-Kansas City) said. “One provision of the bill notes that lacking an ID at the polling place, you can vote on a provisional ballot, but that ballot will only be counted after the certification process.”
Another change in election laws the advocates oppose is the change in the petition process.
House Joint Resolution 20 would require 10 percent of voters in all eight congressional districts and increase the amount of votes needed to pass from a majority to two-thirds. House Bill 333 increases the petition filing fee to $500. Both bills have passed the House and are waiting for Senate approval.
“Every single year that I have been here, my colleagues have essentially given the middle finger to Missouri voters,” House Minority Leader Crystal Quade (D-Springfield) said. “They are making the initiative petition process harder. They are making it so that those with only absorbent amounts of money can actually get something passed.”
Rev. Darryl Gray spoke in front of the group saying this session has felt like the Black community has been left behind.
“Expose your evil, we’re all going to fight back, we are not going to stand still, we are not going to be quiet,” Gray said.
Other pieces of election legislation would require voters to only use paper ballots unless of a disability and those who vote ahead of election day with unexcused absentee ballots will only have three weeks compared to six to fill out their ballot. According to the coalition, more than 200,000 registered voters in Missouri lack a state-issued ID.
Both House and Senate leadership have stated they support changes to the state’s voting laws.