Missouri GOP latest to push early-voting 'reforms'

People cast their ballots for the US presidential election at an early voting center in Columbus, Ohio, on Oct. 15, 2012.
People cast their ballots for the US presidential election at an early voting center in Columbus, Ohio, on Oct. 15, 2012.
Republican policymakers in Wisconsin and Ohio recently imposed new restrictions on early voting, and this week, GOP lawmakers in Missouri followed suit, though their efforts come with a bit of a twist.

The Missouri House has endorsed a pair of early voting measures, though some Democrats contend they could create confusion for a proposed initiative petition that seeks to go further in allowing advanced voting. [...] Democratic critics say the House proposal is a "sham" and that politics are at play.

Fortunately, this is a knowable thing -- either the proposal is a sham or it's not -- so let's take a closer look.
The Republican plan in Missouri does not actually ban early voting, so much as it creates an unusual time frame in which early voting would be allowed. Under the proposal, there would be nine days of early voting, but the nine days couldn't come the week before the election and they couldn't include a Sunday, which happens to be a very popular day for early voting in states that allow it.
Saturday voting would be limited to four hours, and voting after 5 p.m. -- after many workers leave their jobs for the day -- would be prohibited.
What's more, all of this isn't just a proposed bill; it's actually a proposed amendment to the Missouri Constitution, which would make future reforms more difficult. What's more, the amendment comes with a built-in loophole: "If lawmakers don't appropriate money for early voting on any given year, it won't happen."
All of this coincides with a new voter-ID plan, leading the Kansas City Star to note in an editorial, "Republicans in the Missouri General Assembly are mounting a two-pronged effort to make voting more difficult for certain citizens, who are most likely to be elderly, low-income, students or minorities. They're not even subtle about it."
And to think some Missouri Dems would be so cynical as to see this as a "sham."
Meanwhile, voting-rights supporters are pushing a more progressive approach.

A coalition, the Missouri Early Voting Fund, is gathering signatures in hopes of putting a question on the November ballot. Its proposal would require voting to start six weeks before the election, with opportunities to vote on Saturday and Sundays for the final 21 days.

In other words, there are two competing approaches to early voting advancing in Missouri, though only one actually seems to make it easier for residents to actually vote early.