Members of the military and people with disabilities would have a better chance to be listed first on the ballot under a measure Missouri Gov. Jay Nixon signed into law on Wednesday.
Missouri uses a random drawing to determine the ballot order for candidates who file in person on the first day of a filing period. The legislation allows proxies to draw numbers for candidates who cannot be physically present because they are disabled or deployed on active military duty.
"Their military service makes them more qualified to be elected, but less likely to win and that's unfair," Nixon said at a bill signing ceremony at the secretary of state's office.
The legislation takes effect immediately and just in time for candidates for state offices and Congress to begin filing next week at the secretary of state's office in Jefferson City.
Under current law, candidates who cannot be present for filing are already allowed to submit their information by mail. But the Democratic governor said this automatically places those people at the bottom of the ballot, a disadvantage in crowded primaries.
The new law allows candidates to appoint a proxy by email if they cannot be present on the opening day of filing. The proxy then can participate in the random drawing for ballot order.
One of the measure's chief backers in the Legislature was serving in Iraq when he decided to run for office. Sen. Will Kraus, R-Lee's Summit, said he had to apply for leave to come back to Missouri for the random drawing. He said he would've had a disadvantage in his election if his leave was not granted.
The state's top elections official, Secretary of State Jason Kander, also applauded the legislation. Kander, an Army veteran, said he was glad the bill was the first passed in the Legislature this year.
"I think it's patriotic for lawmakers to pass a measure to make it easier for people to file to run against them," Nixon said.
Candidate filing runs from Tuesday until March 25.