The official ballot language of Amendment #6 is as follows:
Shall the Missouri Constitution be amended to permit voting in person or by mail for a period of six business days prior to and including the Wednesday before the election day in general elections, but only if the legislature and the governor appropriate and disburse funds to pay for the increased costs of such voting?
State governmental entities estimated startup costs of about $2 million and costs to reimburse local election authorities of at least $100,000 per election. Local election authorities estimated higher reimbursable costs per election period. Those costs will depend on the compensation, staffing, and planning decisions of elections authorities with total costs being unknown.
A yes vote will amend the Missouri Constitution to do the following:
1) permit early voting in election years when the General Assembly and
governor appropriate funding;
2) permit voting for a period of six business days before election day (ending on the Wednesday before);
3) will not permit early voting to take place on a Saturday or a Sunday;
A no vote will not amend the Missouri Constitution to allow for early voting.
Nationwide, the trend is moving toward support of an early voting period.
Currently, thirty-three states and the District of Columbia allow their residents some form of early voting. Three states—Colorado, Washington, and Oregon—have switched exclusively to mail-in election ballots with Election Day just being the deadline for all ballots to be mailed and postmarked. In reality, the days of an actual election day in the United States may soon be relegated to history books. Today, it is not just one day but a solid month, if not more, in most states. This trend is expected to continue and perhaps even expand. Missouri is one of fifteen states that does not have early voting or a no-excuse absentee voting process. Under Missouri law, absentee voting is available for six weeks ahead of an election, but a good reason is required (an illness, being in a nursing home, being out of town on election day, etc.) to be able to vote absentee. To use a mail-in ballot, one must apply for it.
Issues involving elections and voting laws usually break along political lines. For example, most Republicans prefer a shorter period of early voting, while Democrats want to extend that time; Republicans support the idea of photo Voter ID, yet Democrats generally oppose it. Amendment #6 is a more reasonable bi-partisan approach as concerns early voting, and most Missouri voters seem to favor the idea of making it easier and more convenient to cast their votes.
Missouri’s Constitutional Amendment #6 is the Republican response to a push by Missouri Democrats who were wanting a six-week early voting period. Along with the ACLU, they tried to place an initiative petition before voters. However, this effort failed to gather enough signatures to make the 2014 fall ballot. Their proposed initiative petition would have also allowed voting on both Saturdays and Sundays for the final three weeks before any federal or state election. Consequently, to counter the six-week initiative, Republicans proposed a referendum to permit six-days of early voting. Republicans argued that a six-week early voting window is just too long. Allowing for a six-day election period seems more reasonable and a better fit for our state. Critics of any early voting proposal typically focus their argument on the extra costs to fund elections and the additional workload created by early voting. Should the six weeks proposal have made the ballot and passed, taxpayers would have been required to pick up the tab, approximately $11 million more per election cycle.
Statistics show that most voters do not decide how they want to vote until a week to a week and a half before an election. Supporters of Amendment #6 say that the six-day early voting proposal, along with being more reasonable, is a smarter plan to allow easier access to the ballot box. They say it doesn’t give either political party an advantage in a general election, it maintains the integrity of the election process, it increases the opportunity to vote early, and it helps keep costs realistic. Furthermore, some county clerks and election authorities are supportive of Amendment #6, saying that it will put very little additional burden on them, unlike a six-week voting period would. They are quick to point out, though, that the state must provide the extra needed funding.
It is now up to the people. Voters will decide on November 4th if there will be any changes made in Missouri’s current voting laws. Whatever changes may or may not take place, one thing the majority of voters want is for elections and the voting process to be fair and secure for all our state’s citizens.