It's time to make voting better in Missouri

The Examiner

Missourians deserve a more rational system of voting.

The General Assembly, which has now convened for its regular 2021 session, should at least make voting in advance of Election Day easier. Making it more convenient to vote – that is, easier to vote – is good government.

According to the National Conference of State Legislatures, 20 states already allow early voting, giving citizens the latitude to cast their votes weeks before Election Day. In Missouri, all that’s available is absentee voting, for which a voter has to state why he or she cannot get to a polling place on Election Day.

The experience in state after state has been that early voting is popular, and it works. Missouri should catch up with where the rest of the country has been heading for some time.

Alternatively, five states – Colorado, Utah, Washington, Oregon and Hawaii – hold their elections by mail. The ballot arrives, you study the candidates and issues at your leisure, you fill out your ballot, and you mail it back. It works. It’s worth looking at in our state.

Other things the Missouri General Assembly should do:

• Put a stop to illegal gambling, specifically the estimated 14,000 video gambling machines at bars and gas stations across the state. These machines – unregulated, untaxed and illegal – have shown up over the last couple years.  

Such gambling is allowed in casinos only, under laws approved by the voters themselves. No rogue company – even those politically connected to Gov. Mike Parson – should be able to just ignore that.

The Missouri Department of Public Safety has forwarded about 70 probable-cause affidavits to local prosecutors, but there’s been little follow-through, although one judge ruled a few months ago this is illegal. It’s time for legislators to stop procrastinating on this issue. 

• Put meaningful safety rules in place to protect young people at church-run boarding homes. The Kansas City Star is to be commended for documenting a wide range of abuses by the operations that in many cases choose Missouri because of that lack of protections and oversight written into the law. 

• Enact equal legal protections for all Missourians. Amazing and distressing as it might seem in 2021, in this state an employer can still fire you or you can be denied housing simply based on how you identify. That’s not right. Movement on this has stalled in Jefferson City again and again for years. This is about treating people decently. It’s past time to act.