Missourians deserve benefits of early voting
The Kansas City Star
One week ago, people queued up in lines a block or more long as the sun rose over Kansas City and its Missouri suburbs. Got to vote before the work day begins. In rural parts of Missouri, folks were up even earlier. Sometimes voting can involve a long drive.
Many of those voters undoubtedly would have preferred going to the polls on a more convenient day or evening. But unlike the District of Columbia and 32 other states, including Kansas, Missouri doesn’t have the option of early voting. residents can’t even vote absentee without offering an explanation to elections officials.
That has to change. Missourians are busy people. They deserve the convenience of early voting.
It promotes fair and vigorous elections, encourages people to vote and provides time to deal with glitches such as confusion about addresses.
It also can save money. Over in Kansas, advance voting in Johnson County is partly responsible for a 20 percent reduction in polling places in recent years.
Early voting has been talked about in Missouri for years. The last two governors, Democrat Jay Nixon and Republican Matt Blunt, favored it. Secretary of State Robin Carnahan has promoted it and Jason Kander, who was elected Tuesday to succeed Carnahan, also is an advocate for advance voting.
Nearly every year a bill to establish early voting is introduced in the Missouri legislature. Yet elections come and go with no choice for voters but to carve out time on the designated day. The reasons, no surprise, have to do with politics and gridlock within the Missouri legislature.
Republicans see early voting as a hostage card they can use to muster support for a photo ID law. They won’t do one without the other. It’s not an even trade, however. Advance voting is an important convenience, while photo ID requirements are deliberate attempts at suppressing votes under the guise of protecting against non-existent voter fraud. Democrats are wise to keep pushing for early voting as a stand-alone reform.
A good first step would be to at least allow absentee voting without an excuse. That would expand voters’ options and move toward a system that treats Missouri voters as the adults they are.
Soon, though, Missouri must create a well-advertised early voting system. It will be good for voters and good for democracy.