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Missouri Secretary of State Ashcroft wants to ban help for absentee ballot mistakes

JEFFERSON CITY (AP) — Missouri Secretary of State Jay Ashcroft, a Republican, is urging the Legislature to prohibit local election workers from helping absentee voters correct mistakes, a move that would mean some votes aren’t counted.

“We would like to see legislation that does not allow for curing of absentee ballots,” Deputy Secretary of State Trish Vincent told the House Elections Committee last week. “Curing” is a common term for fixing errors.

The request adds to a growing list of measures advanced by Republicans to alter the state’s elections, including restoring a photo ID requirement and making it harder to amend the state constitution through voter-initiated ballot measures. Some similar proposals failed this year but could be considered again in the 2022 session.

During the COVID-19 pandemic last year, Missouri lawmakers temporarily made all voters eligible to cast a ballot by mail, but required most to have their ballot notarized. Missouri previously required an excuse for voting absentee. More than 28% of Missouri voters cast ballots by mail in November, up from 8% in 2018.

The House passed in March a bill that would allow no-excuse absentee balloting for three weeks before an election — but voters would have to show photo ID. The Senate didn’t debate the proposal but could revive it next year.

“I don’t think we’re going to go back to the mail-in like we did during COVID,” said Rep. Dan Shaul, R-Imperial, chairman of the House Elections Committee.

State election authorities rejected 5,437 mail ballots in November. That rejection rate of 0.6% was lower than the overall U.S. rate of 0.8%.

Some election officials attempt to cure ballots. KOMU-TV reported in October that clerks in Boone and Cole counties attempted to help voters with ballot problems.

“If the voter forgets to sign it, why is it OK for an election authority to call them and say, ‘You didn’t sign this, do you want to come and sign it?’” Vincent said. “Do they get to get their ballot out of the tabulator and say, ‘Oh, I didn’t mean to vote that way, can I change it?’”

But some lawmakers say the Legislature should instead set rules allowing mistakes to be fixed.

“Why wouldn’t the state establish a procedure for voters to cure their votes … we say we want people to be able to vote and for their votes to matter and to be counted,” said Rep. Joe Adams, D-University City.

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