Voter ID requirement, no-excuse early voting among changes Missourians will see when they vote in 2022 election

A partition setting off a voting booth rests on a table in the Millennium Student Center

The Millennium Student Center will serve as a polling place for voters in St. Louis County during the Nov. 8 election. The county will also offer no-excuse absentee voting at the MSC beginning Oct. 27. (Photo by August Jennewein)

The midterm elections are now only 15 days away, and political experts are anticipating unusually high turnout as people cast votes on Nov. 8.

“Voters seem to be pretty fired up about issues ranging from inflation to abortion to immigration,” said Anita Manion, an assistant professor of political science at the University of Missouri–St. Louis and the political analyst for KSDK (Channel 5) in St. Louis. “2018 was a historic turnout for a midterm election, I think a lot of people are anticipating this being like that. Of course, I never think that our high turnout is high enough.”

The U.S. Senate race between Republican Eric Schmitt and Democrat Trudy Busch Valentine tops the ballot in Missouri. But voters will also choose representatives in Congressional races, the Missouri Legislature and in local offices, and they’ll be voting on five statewide ballot measures. The one getting the most attention seems to be Amendment 3, a citizen-initiated constitutional amendment that would, among other things, legalize marijuana in Missouri for adults over 21.

Aside from the candidates and issues, voters need to be prepared for changes in the manner and time in which they cast their votes thanks to a new election law that took effect at the end of August.

UMSL Daily spoke to Manion and her colleague Professor David Kimball, chair of the Department of Political Science, about the changes that have resulted from that law.

What differences should people be prepared for when they head to the polls?

AM: I think voter ID and early voting are the two things that are most impactful for individual voters. With the photo ID law, the biggest change for students is you can no longer use your student ID as a valid photo ID to vote. You also can’t use things you used previously like utility bills or your voter registration card. Instead, you have to have a photo ID issued by the State of Missouri or the federal government. Things that would fall under that umbrella would include a Missouri driver’s license, a Missouri nondriver’s license, passport or a military ID.

One issue opponents of voter ID laws have cited is the cost of obtaining a driver’s license or a passport, which they argue places a burden on would-be voters. Are there ways to obtain a valid ID that don’t cost money?

DK: Driver’s license officers are supposed to provide a nondriver’s license for free. I think the catch there is they usually require some other documentation like a birth certificate, and some elderly people may not have one. Also, you have to pay to get that required documentation first.

AM: The underlying documents like birth certificates and social security cards still have costs associated with obtaining those. But the Secretary of State’s office will pay the $11 for the nondriver’s license and the Missouri Bureau of Vital Records will provide one free exempt copy of a Missouri birth certificate.

How many people are registered to vote in Missouri who are known to not have an official ID?

AM: That’s a good question. According to an analysis from the Secretary of State’s office in 2017, they said 137,700 registered voters in Missouri did not have a state issued ID and another 140,000, voters had expired IDs. That’s the numbers they had put out.

What’s the turnaround time to get either a driver’s license or a nondriver’s license? How long before election day could you go to obtain a license in time to vote?

AM: I renewed my driver’s license this year, and they didn’t immediately give you a driver’s license. According to the Missouri Department of Revenue, it takes 7-10 days to receive your driver’s license or non-driver photo ID in the mail.

What happens to registered voters who show up on Election Day Without a voter ID?

DK: Those people cast a provisional ballot. It goes in a separate envelope – either a yellow or blue envelope. Those voters can come back to the polling place on election day with a photo ID and have their vote count. If they don’t do that, then the election office checks the signature when they sign that provisional ballot to see if it matches the signature they have on file when the person registered to vote. If the signatures match, then the ballot counts. If not, it doesn’t count.

Signatures can obviously change over time, and I’m guessing some people first registered to vote decades ago. Are any steps taken to update a person’s signature?

DK: I think most counties keep trying to update signatures every time the voter signs. They keep that new signature. But it’s possible that if your signatures changed over a period of time, it might not look the same as your original one, even though the same person wrote both of them.

AM: I think, too, sometimes signing in on touchpads can impact how a signature looks. My signature isn’t the same as it is if I’m signing a piece of paper.

Other than requiring photo ID, what other changes should people be aware of before Election Day?

AM: I think the other biggest change for voters is we now, in Missouri, have a no-excuse early voting period. There weren’t many states that had no opportunities for no-excuse early voting in the past. Now beginning on October 25 and continuing through 5 p.m. on Nov. 7, registered voters can vote in person without giving a reason. You can just go in and vote early. UMSL’s polling place is one of those early voting locations. You can start voting on campus on Oct. 27.

DK: I think in most counties, it’s just the county election office that’s the early voting center, but in some places like St. Louis County and St. Louis city, they’ve established a handful of early voting locations sort of scattered throughout the city and around the county, and for St. Louis County, UMSL is one of those with voting taking place in Century Room A of the Millennium Student Center.

AM: We should also remind folks again that if you’re registered to vote in St. Louis County, you can vote at any polling place in the county.

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