Early voting committee has no plans to act in January
Sunday, December 5, 2004
JEFFERSON CITY, Mo. -- Despite interest in the concept of early voting during this year's election, a panel of Missouri lawmakers said late last week they had no plans to address the issue in the legislative session that starts next month.
The city of St. Louis sought to have early voting during this year's general election, but a court eventually said it's not allowed under state law. Supporters of early voting say it would make voting more convenient.
The chairman of the House's Interim Committee on Early Voting, Rep. Bill Deeken, said the issue needs more study, including on such practical details as for how long and where to offer early voting, as well as cost concerns.
"There's a lot of things that need to be looked at yet before we jump into this thing," said Deeken, R-Jefferson City, a former county clerk.
Deeken and others said lawmakers could allow a few counties to try the idea on a test basis in 2006, and if that goes well, could consider a statewide system in 2008. Deeken said any system that's eventually designed must ensure it doesn't overburden county clerks, who oversee elections.
Rep. Scott Lipke, R-Jackson, said the state must consider whether the cost of early voting -- potentially in the millions of dollars -- is worth it if the process would simply provide a convenience for voters who would cast ballots anyway, and not result in a higher turnout.
"It's a balance between cost-benefit," he said.
Missourians currently can vote absentee beginning six weeks before an election, but only if they will be unable to vote in person on the day of the election.
Thirty-one states allow unconditional early voting, either in person or by mail, according to the National Association of Secretaries of State.