Missouri Ranks Third in Voter Suppression Legislation, Report Finds


Missouri lawmakers have introduced multiple bills that would make it harder to vote. - PAUL SABLEMAN/FLICKR
  • Missouri lawmakers have introduced multiple bills that would make it harder to vote.

Fresh off a presidential election with record turnout, legislators in Missouri have filed the third-most voter suppression bills in the country, according to a new report.

Researchers at the non-partisan Brennan Center for Justice reviewed voter-access bills filed across the United States, and found lawmakers in 28 states had introduced 106 bills this session that would make it harder to cast ballots. That's triple the number that had been proposed the year before, and Missouri was among the most aggressive in the nation with nine pre-filed bills. Only Pennsylvania and New Hampshire had more.

"In a backlash to historic voter turnout in the 2020 general election, and grounded in a rash of baseless and racist allegations of voter fraud and election irregularities, legislators have introduced three times the number of bills to restrict voting access as compared to this time last year," the Brennan Center's report says.

The trend for Republican lawmakers across the country has been to go after mail-in and absentee voting, which boosted turnout as people hoping to avoid catching or spreading COVID-19 sought alternatives to standing in lines at the polls.

Donald Trump has made conspiracies about mail-in voting fraud a central theme of his false claims that the election was stolen from him.

"But this year, using the pretext of the China virus and the scam of mail-in ballots, Democrats attempted the most brazen and outrageous election theft and there’s never been anything like this," Trump told thousands of supporters on January 6. "So pure theft in American history. Everybody knows it."

That lie repeated by the ex-president and sympathetic elected officials is now considered part of the fuel for the attack on the U.S. Capitol that followed his speech. Pro-Trump extremists overran barricades and took over the building, sending members of congress scrambling for cover. Five people died, including a Capitol police officer who authorities say was beaten to death with a fire extinguisher.

In the aftermath, Republicans have been under pressure to drop debunked claims and avoid propping up voter fraud conspiracy theories that have proved deadly. But that hasn't stopped elected officials from Missouri from pushing the idea that voting by mail is risky and likely to encourage mass voter fraud.

As a concession to the pandemic, Missouri expanded absentee and mail-in voting but created a confusing system with differing rules for each method. New bills hope to eliminate even the modest changes that made it easier for more people to vote.

Missouri Republicans have taken a lead role in questioning the election results, and that has extended beyond working to restrict voting access in the state to throwing out votes in other states.

State Attorney General Eric Schmitt proudly filed briefs in two Supreme Court cases that sought to wipe out votes in battleground states won by Biden. And Josh Hawley was the first U.S. senator to announce he would object to the certification of the presidential election.

It was the process in Congress of certifying Biden's election that drew thousands of pro-Trump extremists to the U.S. Capitol on January 6. On his way inside to join the proceedings, Hawley was photographed raising his fist in salute to the MAGA crowd that would ransack the building that afternoon.

Hours after the insurrection, when senators and representatives emerged from safe rooms following the deadly attack, he and five members of congress from Missouri voted to object to the election results.

We welcome tips and feedback. Email the author at doyle.murphy@riverfronttimes.com or follow on Twitter at @DoyleMurphy.
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