Secretary of State Jason Kander plans to push legislation next year that could give deployed military members aspiring to public office a chance to be listed first on the ballot.
Kander said Thursday that Missouri election laws effectively relegate deployed military reservists and National Guard members to the middle or bottom of the candidate list on primary election ballots.
That's because candidates who file on the first day possible must appear in person to participate in a number draw for their ballot order. Candidates who file on subsequent days are listed in the order they file.
Kander said Missouri law allows deployed military members to file for office by certified mail, but that doesn't allow them to be in the drawing for the top ballot spot. He's proposing that deployed military members be allowed to send a proxy to the secretary of state's office to file on their behalf on the first day.
"Generally, the idea is to ensure fairness and to make sure that we are allowing members of the military to feel like their service overseas is valued," said Kander, a former Army officer who served in Afghanistan.
The proposal would carry an emergency clause, meaning that if passed by lawmakers it would take effect immediately upon the governor's signature. Kander said his proposal will be sponsored in the Legislature by Reps. Tony Dugger, R-Hartville, and Stacey Newman, D-St. Louis.
Lawmakers are to convene their annual session Jan. 8. Kander said he hopes the measure could become law before candidacy filing begins Feb. 25 for next year's primary elections.
Department of Defense policies generally prohibit active duty military members from serving in public offices. But those policies allow reservists or National Guard members who are called to active duty for fewer than 270 days to be candidates for elected office so long as that doesn't interfere with the performance of their military duties.