The House gave initial approval Monday to a bill that would reinstate the presidential preference primary in Missouri.
The bill was amended to establish that the primary will take place on “the first Tuesday after the first Monday in April.” As introduced, the bill would have ordered the primary to be held on “the second Tuesday after the first Monday in March.”
Rep. Michael O’Donnell, R-St. Louis, proposed the change. He said the intent was to save money and increase participation in municipal elections, which are held annually in April.
Rep. Peggy McGaugh, R-Carrollton, said holding both elections at the same time raises a concern that non-partisan municipal elections could be turned into partisan elections because a voter would have to ask for a party ballot in order to vote in the municipal election.
“The same candidates will be on every ballot,” O’Donnell said in response, adding that the non-partisan elections would continue to be non-partisan.
Representatives discussed whether the bill’s rule about keeping election signs, literature or polls 25 feet away from “the building’s outer door closest to the polling place” should be changed.
McGaugh tried to change the rule to 50 feet, but this component of her amendment failed. Rep. Ben Baker, R-Neosho, successfully amended her amendment to cancel out this language change.
Baker said he believed that leaving the law at 25 feet is safer for people at the polls.
Rep. Tony Lovasco, R-O’Fallon, said changing the rule to 50 feet would be unconstitutional, since it would be restricting freedom of speech for people around the polling places.
“If we require our election authorities and county clerks to basically invalidate certain polling places and they have to move them somewhere else,” Lovasco said, “what happens if they don’t do that, and they have a polling place there anyway?”
He said this would likely cause lawsuits, which could lead to votes getting tossed out.
The representatives also discussed what type of IDs are valid to present at the polls. Last year, the legislature changed voting laws to require that voters present a valid government ID card with a photo and an expiration date in order to vote.
Rep. Barbara Phifer, D-St. Louis, said expired driver’s licenses should be allowed because otherwise they are penalizing people who have a difficulty getting to the DMV or do not drive anymore.
Rep. Cyndi Buchheit-Courtway, R-Festus, the bill sponsor, said she wanted to give “voices back to voters.”
“I have had so many people — constituents, party-people — reach out, asking that we get this fixed, so that our people know that their voices and their votes matter,” Buchheit-Courtway said.
No changes to the voter ID requirements were adopted.
This story originally appeared in the Columbia Missourian. It can be republished in print or online.
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