Missouri lawmaker proposes June primaries

Missouri lawmakers last year eliminated all elections in June. Gov. Jay Nixon signed that bill into law.

But now state Sen. John Lamping wants to move the August election day to June, eliminating August elections instead.

“I know that Sen. (Will) Kraus spent four years trying to eliminate that June election,” Lamping, R-Ladue, told the Senate’s Financial & Governmental Organizations and Elections Committee Monday. “(My bill) would be eliminating the August date, and staying with four” election days available each year.

Lamping noted current law makes the August date the “primary” election day in even-numbered years, for candidates running for the Legislature, Congress and various statewide offices.

His bill would move that authority from August to June, “to give the primary winners, of all the (political) parties involved, a longer time to be heard, to consolidate their message to get to the people (and) help the people make a better, more fully educated decision.”

Another reason for a June primary, Lamping noted, is that August usually is a hot month — and many Missourians take vacation in late July or early August.

Sen. Joe Keaveney, D-St. Louis, wondered if Lamping had considered the effects of “giving incumbents only three weeks to campaign” after the legislative session is completed in mid-May, while any “challenger is going to be in the district from January through August.”

Lamping said that’s a bigger issue for incumbent lawmakers than for the public as a whole.

Kraus, R-Lee’s Summit, asked if voters would get even more tired of elections than they have in previous years.

“Most people I talk to are very tired of the election, when it gets here in November,” he said. “You’re going to increase the time period (in which) those general elections are going to take place.

“Do you think they’re going to get a little bit more frustrated with candidates during that time period?”

But, Lamping responded: “It depends on the candidates. ... You’ve got five months to explain why you’re the better candidate.”

He said part of the public exhaustion happens because of the extra pressures on voters in the national presidential contests, like last year’s.

“Of course they’re exhausted,” Lamping said.

John Scott, Secretary of State Jason Kander’s policy director, suggested Lamping’s bill needs some technical changes because the shift to June would create some deadline issues with other parts of state law.

“It could be that we need to work something out, where those dates don’t happen to fall on the same day,” he said.

Lamping said those issues could be handled in a substitute measure, either before the committee votes to endorse the bill — as early as next week — or after it reaches the full Senate for debate.

No one else spoke for or against Lamping’s proposal during Monday’s hearing.


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