Public comment sought on 3 early voting petitions

Missourians have until Dec. 5 to offer comments on three proposed initiative petitions about early voting, that were announced Wednesday by Secretary of State Jason Kander’s office.

All three petitions were submitted by Matthew Dameron, a Kansas City attorney who served as Attorney General Chris Koster’s chief of staff from 2009-12.

And all three would add one section to the Missouri Constitution’s Article VIII, affecting “Suffrage and Elections.”

The Constitution already allows “qualified” voters “who are absent, whether within or without the state, (to) be enabled by general law to vote at all elections by the people.”

But the law requires people wishing to cast an absentee ballot to provide a reason for using that ballot, including: “Absence on election day,” “incapacity or confinement due to illness or physical disability,” “religious belief or practice,” “employment as an election authority, as a member of an election authority” or being a poll worker at a different voting place.

However, if voters approve the proposals during the November 2014 general election, Missourians would be “entitled to vote early in advance of election day, without having to state an excuse, in-person or by mail for all federal or state general elections.”

The proposed amendment would require early voting from “the sixth Tuesday before the election until the close of regular business hours” on the day before the election, at a “central vote early location.”

The amendment says the early voting would be available during the local election authority’s “regular business hours” until 21 days before the election, when the authority — the county clerk in outstate Missouri counties — would have to add “at least five hours” on Saturdays and Sundays, from noon-5 p.m.

And the Thursday before the election, the early voting would have to be available between 8 a.m. and 7 p.m.

In larger counties, the election authority would have to open additional “satellite vote early sites” based on the county’s population.

And that’s why there are three petitions instead of one.

“The population threshold for satellite voting locations is the distinction between the three drafts,” Dameron said in an e-mail Wednesday afternoon.

In one petition, a satellite location requirement kicks in if the county has more than 100,0000 registered voters, with an additional extra location required for each additional 50,000 registered voters.

A second petition leaves one early voting location until the county’s population is more than 150,000 registered voters, with an extra location required for each additional 50,000 registered voters.

And the third petition would require a satellite early voting site above 175,000 registered voters, with an additional location for every 75,000 additional voters.

Under a new policy launched this week, Missourians now have 15 days to comment on ballot measures proposed by the initiative petition process.

And the petitions can be seen online, and commented on — at www.sos.mo.gov/comment — within 24 hours after they are delivered to Kander’s office.

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