KANSAS CITY, Mo. — Missouri lawmakers are considering making it easier to vote early.
Right now, state law requires an excuse to cast an absentee ballot, but on the other side of the state line in Kansas, voters don’t need an excuse to cast an absentee ballot.
The proposed change to absentee voting laws is part of a piece of legislation that would make close to two dozen changes in Missouri election law.
Right now, Missouri voters who wish to vote absentee must complete an application to request an absentee ballot and check off one of six excuses to receive a ballot in the mail or in person. To cast the ballot, it must be notarized in most cases.
Now, Missouri lawmakers are considering allowing people to vote absentee without an excuse for a three-week period.
“Access to the ballot box is the most important thing we have as citizens, and if people are limited in when they can do it or limited, they have to go through an arbitrary system that says you gotta jump through this hoop to do it. That’s not right,” voter Larry Meyer told FOX4.
Missouri Secretary of State Jay Ashcroft is in favor of the measure that would allow three weeks where people would not need an excuse to vote absentee. In 2020, voters did not need an excuse for absentee voting because of the COVID-19 pandemic, but those changes expired at the end of the year.
“What I’ve seen is there were a lot of people that took advantage of voting absentee in-person,” Ashcroft said. “That’s part of why I agreed to a compromise on the election bill that was passed by the House that is in a Senate right now to allow that limited, no-excuse in-person absentee balloting with that government-issued photo ID.”
Kansas City Election Board Democratic Director Lauri Ealom said no-excuse absentee voting would reduce lines and spread out the work on election day.
“That is exactly how you get good results in a timely manner when you already have the information because everything has to have the opportunity to come back to us,” Ealom said.
Those in favor of no-excuse absentee voting say it gives more people a chance to vote.
“You’re going to get more people represented across the board, maybe people who have a harder time going to vote. I have the luxury of I can kind of go vote whenever, but other people they can’t get sitters, or they can’t take time off work,” voter Chris Chandler said.
Kansas already allows absentee voting for a full six weeks before an election with no excuse.
“In some other states, too, but not here,” voter Rita Lacy said. “They need to change it here so it’s fair across the board for everybody.”
The election bill is currently in the Missouri Senate’s local government and election committee, but there’s no word on when it will make it to the floor for a vote.
If it passes, Ashcroft said he would look at the data from the three-week period to see if it is necessary to extend it to the full six weeks.