Missouri State Plan Committee Minutes
Statewide Database/Provisional Voting/Voter Identification Subcommittee
The initial meeting of the State Plan Committee Database/ Provisional Voting/Voter Identification Subcommittee was held at the Office of the Secretary of State, Jefferson City, Missouri, on Wednesday, February 26, 2003. Richard Struckhoff, Co-Chairman, called meeting to order. Roll call was done by Carol Bennett. Those in attendance were:
Co-Chairman Richard Struckhoff, Greene County Clerk
Co-Chairman Pat Conway, Buchanan County Clerk
David Welch, St. Louis County Election Board
Carol Bennett, Phelps County Clerk
Kelly Christopher, Livingston County Clerk
Glenn Nielsen, Libertarian Party
Janice Brand, Missouri Department of Health
Estil Fretwell, Missouri Farm Bureau
Mark (Thor) Hearne, Missouri Republican Party
Robert Honan, Governor's Council on Disability
Ruth Redel, Missouri Department of Revenue
John Sappington, Missouri Department of Revenue
Mary Ratliff, NAACP
Representatives of the Office of the Secretary of State in attendance:
Gayla Vandelicht, Co-Director of Elections
Pam Bax, Elections Division
Don Lloyd, IT Specialist
Welcome was given by Gayla Vandelicht who advised that the current statewide voter registration database is not in compliance with the requirements of the Help America Vote Act (HAVA). She advised that HAVA sets forth a deadline of January 1, 2004 to have a statewide interactive database on line, unless a waiver is requested and granted which would extend this date to January 1, 2006. She stated that changes to Secretary of State's (SOS) Administrative Rules could address needed changes to voter identification and provisional balloting. Struckhoff stated that with such a large committee, it would be impossible to have full agreement on committee recommendations. Vandelicht recommended that if a consensus is not reached on any item, then all points of view should be given in the final report. The committee will produce an advisory report on all three areas. Vandelicht advised that Secretary Blunt will be reviewing all committee reports and compiling them into a statewide plan. She explained that the current statewide database is only a compilation of data sent from all counties, and that the counties have the most up to date lists. However, the new law requires that all election authorities be able to access the database to enter data on an expedited basis. Pat Conway stated that the bottom line is that local governments basically pay election costs. They are not paid by the Federal or State Governments (unless the State runs a special election), or by the political parties. The ultimate costs for these changes will end up with local governments, thus some of the discussion from the local side will involve cost. Local government is limited in expenses until the degree of Federal funding is really known. Struckhoff encouraged those present to attend all of the public hearings possible.
The discussion then turned to provisional voting requirements. Struckhoff advised that Missouri is ahead on this issue because provisional balloting has already been passed into law. Discussion was held regarding what a monumental change this was for all election workers. Emphasis was given to election judge training. Struckhoff cited the fact that this balloting is only allowed in Federal and Statewide elections, causing more confusion for election workers. Some election authorities would prefer for this option to be made available for all elections. Vandelicht cited Section 302 of the Federal law. She stated that Federal law requires that almost anyone who walks in and says they are registered to vote be given a ballot. Provisional ballots cast by a voter in the wrong polling place shall not be counted in accordance with Federal law. Also, provisional ballots voted after the polls close shall be kept separate from other provisional ballots. These items have been addressed by Missouri in House Bill 511. SOS Administrative Rules need to be changed to match this. The main issue which must be addressed is notification from election authorities to provisional ballot voters as to whether or not their ballot was counted and why. The Federal law calls for free access by the voter to this information. Free access would be a toll free telephone line or use of a website. Lengthy discussion was held regarding privacy issues involved in using a website. Suggestion was made that a toll free line in the Secretary of State's Office be used with all counties reporting the provisional ballot information to the State. Federal law limits access to provisional ballot information to the individual who cast the ballot. Struckhoff encouraged the committee to read the law and submit recommendations regarding this issue and emphasized avoiding additional costs to local government for providing this information. Discussion was held regarding what type password could be used by individuals accessing their information, what information must be made available, and how to inform provisional balloters of where the information is available. Mary Ratliff questioned whether provisional ballot voters have the opportunity to offer a challenge if their ballot is not counted. Struckhoff advised that there is no allowance for this in the law. David Welch offered that eventually a provisional balloter whose ballot is not counted will take his challenge to a judge and the outcome will be determined.
At this time, the committee recessed briefly. Upon reconvening, Kelly Christopher offered the suggestion of pre-numbering the provisional ballot envelopes with a tear-off area, which contains the same number, as well as instructions to the balloter as to how to obtain information regarding their provisional ballot. The ballot envelope number could then be used as their password. Gayla Vandelicht advised that pre-numbered envelopes would be much more expensive, but she will check into this matter. Discussion was again held regarding a toll free phone line at the office of SOS for this information. Estil Fretwell stated that he believes it would be better for the provisional balloter to be able to talk to the local election authority, and suggested that the toll free line have the capability of being routed to the local election authority's office. Pam Bax will check into these issues and report back to the committee at their next meeting. Emphasis was given to voter education as the primary way to avoid the need for provisional balloting. The committee as a whole feels voter education is the best tool, so that voters know that just because they voted a provisional ballot, it doesn't mean their vote was counted, encouraging them to address their voter registration issues before election day. Thor Hearn advised that, in the future, if provisional ballots determine the outcome of a close race, taking two weeks to certify these ballots could be a problem. He also cited the need for uniform counting standards to be established for the certifying of provisional ballots.
The committee then moved on to the voter identification issues. Struckhoff advised that Missouri is in compliance on this issue, but expressed concern with the question regarding age of the voter. Because in Missouri a voter can register at age 17-1/2, the question asking if they will be 18 on election day would be difficult to answer, as there could be other elections between the time they register and the time they turn 18. Discussion was held regarding handling this issue administratively. Vandelicht advised that because Missouri laws allow personal identification of a voter by two supervisory judges, and this is not in the Federal law, the Statement of a Known Voter has been changed to a government affidavit. Struckhoff then questioned if Federal Law requires election authorities to accept voter registration applications which are not printed on proper card stock. Vandelicht will check into this matter. She also advised that the new voter registration applications were to be implemented effective 1/1/03. Discussion was held by Ruth Reder, Department of Motor Vehicles, regarding applications currently being used which do not comply with the Federal requirements. She will check into this matter. She also advised that DMV has upgraded the questions they ask when a customer registers to vote to "Are you registered to vote at your current address and do you want to be?" This will be implemented in April or May, 2003. David Welch questioned if a mail-in registration is received close to the cut-off date for an election and the information regarding citizenship or age is not completed, is the registration considered filed timely to qualify for that election. Federal Law states "before the next Federal Election". Therefore, the applicant would have until the day before the election to comply.
The Committee then turned to the statewide database issues. Don Lloyd gave a slide presentation indicating areas where Missouri is not in compliance with Federal Law. Those areas were:
- Current system does not allow local election authorities to enter data on an expedited basis.
- Current system does not have all duplicates eliminated.
- Currently, data is not matched with the Department of Motor Vehicles.
- The Department of Motor Vehicles does not have a contract with Social Security Administration to verify voter registration information.
- The age of the data in the current system is too old.
Pam Bax listed the following problems with the current system: information is not received fast enough; there is no electronic access to local election authorities; the system does not coordinate with any other State Agencies; a unique identifier does not follow the voter throughout the State.
Struckhoff stated that this would be the toughest segment for this subcommittee. He gave a brief history of the changes required and problems experienced when the LEMS system was implemented. He stated that if software and/or hardware must be changed in the offices of every local election authority, he does not feel it is realistic to think this can be accomplished by January 1, 2004. He suggested that the subcommittee may recommend applying for a waiver to extend this date until January 1, 2006. He then asked if local election offices will have to change software. Pam Bax answered that this is probable as the LEMS system is not compliant with getting data from locals in an expedited manner. Struckhoff noted that the transition would be much easier if the local offices did not have to be changed. He also noted that under Federal Law the SOS Database will be the official voter registration database. In the past the official database belonged to the local election authority. Glenn Nielsen questioned the security of the database as is required by the Federal Law. Lloyd advised that in the current system, no one can access the database but authorized SOS employees. However, under the new law, all local election authorities will have to have access. Charlene Davis discussed the fact that the voter registration database changes even on Election Day, and questioned what "official list" really means. Lengthy discussion was held regarding expedited entry of data as some counties only enter data weekly or monthly. Problems noted with the required system changes included timely access to the database by local election authorities on election day when all counties are accessing many times. Lloyd advised that connectivity between local and SOS is a problem. Struckhoff stated that local election authorities want to be proactive in maintaining the database and do not want their information changed by SOS or another county. Davis noted that all of their unique voter numbers would have to be changed. Discussion was held regarding petition verification and the many different types of connectivity being used by the various counties. Struckhoff encouraged those present to attend all public hearings if possible. The next subcommittee meeting will be held on March 19, 2003 at 4:00 p.m. (immediately following the public hearing) in the Roy Blunt Conference Room, Office of the Secretary of State. Members of the committee are to read the current law, read the Help America Vote Act, and read proposed House Bill 511 and compile their notes and suggestions prior to the next meeting.
Meeting was then adjourned.
Carol A. Bennett, Phelps County Clerk
Member of Database/Provisional Voting/Voter ID Subcommittee