Missouri lawmakers are renewing their approach to election security and integrity ahead of the next legislative session.
The Missouri House of Representatives Elections and Elected Officials Committee held a hearing Tuesday morning to discuss election security and initiative petition reform.
After 28 bills came out of the committee last session, only one of them — HB 685 — made it past the state Senate and onto the governor's desk.
Committee Chairman Dan Shaul, R-Imperial, said he wants to use the interim to prepare policy and hit the ground running when the next legislative session starts in January.
"In my eyes, it's very disappointing that no more action took place on the east wing," Shaul said.
Many election topics, such as voter ID requirements, paper ballots and recall of county commissioners, were left on the table last session, Shaul said, so he wants to revisit those areas and accomplish more next session.
Over the course of more than three hours, the committee heard testimony from citizens, organizations, a state representative, a county clerk and a representative from the Missouri Secretary of State's Office.
The hearing was split into two topics: election integrity and initiative petition reforms.
The overwhelming majority of interest among lawmakers and the public was focused on election integrity in the state, particularly how Missouri safeguards against hacking or fraud in elections.
Shaul said the state ran elections well in 2020.
"I feel very good about how the Missouri elections were handled last year — I think the Secretary of State's Office did very good," Shaul said. "What I think we have to worry about now is the perception of the trustworthiness of it. I believe they were fair and transparent. Now we have to make sure we work on the trustworthy side to make sure people believe the results of what we have."
Committee Democrats said some of the rhetoric surrounding election security is meant to sow fear among voters, which can lead to greater distrust of the election system.
Missouri is a paper ballot state, meaning the state certification of election results is based on paper ballot totals, not totals calculated by electronic election machines as seen in some other states, Greene County Clerk Shane Schoeller testified.
State Rep. Ann Kelley, R-Lamar, was invited to speak to the committee about a recent symposium she attended on cybersecurity, sponsored by MyPillow CEO and conservative activist Mike Lindell.
Kelley told the committee some of the key takeaways from the symposium include a need to strengthen perception of fair, free and safe elections in the state and that systems using flash drives and internet-connecting modems in voting machines leave elections vulnerable.
Committee vice chairman Peggy McGaugh, R-Carrollton, said no voting machines in Missouri's 114 counties have a modem, and every election in the state requires a hand count of ballots, which would turn up any discrepancies in the electronic totals.
McGaugh served 32 years as the Carroll County clerk before being elected to the House in 2018.
Schoeller told the committee that electronic voting machines are only used to provide the unofficial election results on election night and the actual election results are certified two weeks after an election to allow time for the state's verification process.
That process, he said, involves matching paper ballots to the number of printed ballots and registered voters.
"I think it's worth saying, any election equipment that's electronic can be hacked into, that's why we don't certify off of that," Schoeller told the committee. "That can be compromised. We understand that. That's why we have all these processes in place after the election to verify."
There's also a chain of custody for ballots, Schoeller said, which is in place to ensure unaccounted ballots are not added without approval.
"We're going to trust but we're going to verify, and that's the motto of election authorities across the state," Schoeller said. "We're going to do everything we can to ensure that when we go before the verification board, we have everything we can present to them."
Trish Vincent, chief of staff for Missouri Secretary of State Jay Ashcroft, testified before the committee to discuss potential changes to legislation Ashcroft's office would like to see happen.
Vincent said Ashcroft supports stronger voter ID requirements, stronger ID requirements for absentee voting and a funding mechanism to ensure county clerks maintain clean voter rolls.
She said the Secretary of State's partnership with the Missouri Department of Revenue remains the top way Missourians register to vote.
The committee will meet next Sept. 14 to discuss photo ID requirements for voting.