Flex Your Civic Muscles

Flex Your Civic Muscles

With Missouri’s August primary election right around the corner, I wanted to provide you with an overview of the election security legislation passed by the General Assembly this year and encourage you to flex your civic muscles and vote. This is the perfect time to do your homework, research, meet the candidates and learn their stance on the issues important to you.

Elections are like the umbilical cord for our representative republic, connecting citizens with their government. They are the mechanism by which voices cross over as votes, ideas transfer into policies and solutions to social issues transition into state law. As elections are the lifeline, voting is the oxygen that sustains our government, and without a safe and steady flow of voter participation and trust, our state cannot flourish. This is precisely why I filed Senate Bill 670 at the behest of the secretary of state. Provisions of my legislation were amended onto House Bill 1878, which passed the Legislature and now awaits the governor’s consideration. This legislation takes a strong step toward ensuring nothing can or will jeopardize the integrity of our future elections.

One component of HB 1878 requires votes to be cast on paper ballots. When you put your vote “in writing,” it cannot be disputed or altered, but it can be verified, recounted, reviewed and audited, if needed. The legislation also requires all ballot processing and tabulating equipment to be “air-gapped,” or not connected to a network or the internet, and it authorizes the secretary of state to audit the list of registered voters for any local election authority (LEA) to ensure accuracy.

The second part of the election security legislation protects LEAs and polling places in general. Voters will be required to show a valid, photo ID to vote, or allowed to cast a provisional ballot if they are unable to present an ID. Political subdivisions that conduct elections will be banned from receiving money from private entities to prepare, administer and conduct elections or register voters. This should help put an end to out-of-state groups that attempt to influence our elections. Registered voters may cast a no-excuse absentee ballot at the office of a LEA or at another authorized location if they are unable to vote on Election Day beginning on the second Tuesday prior to an election. Finally, the measure prohibits amendments or modifications to any election laws, rules or regulations in the 26 weeks preceding a presidential election.

With all of the attention directed to election reform, I am pleased with the final product passed by the Legislature. Missouri voters can take to the polls with the confidence and satisfaction of knowing their votes will be counted and their voices will be heard. With these new improvements in place, I hope I never have to hear someone say they don’t vote “because it doesn’t matter in the great scheme of things.” Voting is vital to individuals, communities, states and our great country. In fact, it is one of the United States’ most coveted rights, a right that should never be taken for granted or sold short.

If you or someone you know is skeptical about whether or not your vote makes a difference, please keep in mind those who fought to earn this sacred right. Think back 200 years ago when only land-owning men could cast a vote, or 152 years ago before Black and Native American men were allowed to weigh in or 102 years ago when women were finally able to participate. Voting did not become a universal right in the United States until 1965, when the Voting Rights Act passed allowing all Americans the unfettered right to vote. Imagine how much voting mattered when most of our population could not vote during elections. Consider how it would feel if you were not allowed to vote. Do you know what ultimately forced these exclusive policies to change? Voters! If nothing else motivates you to vote, do it because you can, when millions of our forefathers and foremothers couldn’t!

As we approach the Aug. 2 and Nov. 8 elections, please be prepared to speak, loud and proud! Check your registration status or register to vote at sos.mo.gov, study the local propositions or ordinances on the ballot ahead of time, learn about the various candidates, download a sample ballot and persuade everyone in your family to vote. It’s American, it’s your civic duty and it matters.

This column appeared in the Joplin Globe’s Better Living Publication on July 1, 2022.