Missouri Republicans are working to ensure that if the state adopts early voting, it’s as limited—and inconvenient—as possible.
On Wednesday, the state’s GOP-controlled House approved a measure that would ask voters to consider amending the state’s constitution to establish early voting. But under the amendment, the early voting period would last just nine days, ending a full week before Election Day, and would not include Sunday voting. In other states, Sunday voting is especially popular with African-American voters who often vote en masse after church.
The amendment explicitly specifies that the early voting period cannot legally be extended beyond the nine-day window. “The time period for early voting shall be exclusive, and early voting shall not be implemented during any time period not authorized under this section,” it reads.
A second bill would limit poll hours to 9 a.m. to 5 p.m. on weekdays and four hours on Saturday.
Currently, Missouri is one of 15 states with no early voting, so the GOP effort would, in narrow terms, expand access to voting. That could make it easier for Republicans to frame the move as a reasonable attempt to address the issue.
But some Democrats say it’s designed to head off a Democratic-backed campaign that would put a different constitutional amendment on the ballot, allowing for six weeks of early voting, including three Saturdays and three Sundays. As such, they say, it aims to do almost as little as possible to make voting easier for working Missourians.
Complicating the situation even more, Republican lawmakers also are pushing for a constitutional amendment that would instate a voter ID requirement. The measure has passed the House and faces a Senate vote next month. Voting rights advocates are urging Democrats to block it with a filibuster. But some fear that the confluence of voting bills will set off a round of political horse-trading, with the possible result that the ID law could make it through.
One thing’s for sure: This is likely to be a busy year for voting rights—and voting restrictions—in the Show Me State.