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Secretary of state hopeful Shane Schoeller touts election administration experience

Shane Schoeller poses for a portrait on June, 13, 2024, at the St.Louis Public Radio
Sophie Proe
St.Louis Public Radio
Shane Schoeller poses for a portrait on Thursday at St. Louis Public Radio.

Greene County Clerk Shane Schoeller is no stranger to crowded primaries — including the GOP nomination for secretary of state.

The Republican defeated two well-funded and well-organized opponents in 2012 to become the party’s candidate to succeed then-Secretary of State Robin Carnahan. But Schoeller narrowly lost to Democrat Jason Kander.

Two years later, Schoeller became Greene County clerk — the top elections official for the fast-growing southwest Missouri county. And he says that experience helps him stand out in a secretary of state field that includes seven other GOP contenders.

“I think what distinguishes me from everyone else is I've actually been administering elections for the past 10 years,” Schoeller said on an episode of the Politically Speaking podcast. “It’s no different than when you think about voting for sheriff, you want someone who has law enforcement experience before they become the sheriff of your county. I strongly believe we need someone who has election experience to become the next secretary of state.”

Schoeller, who worked for Matt Blunt when he served as secretary of state in the 2000s, also said he would work with libraries to help people become more knowledgeable about securities which the office regulates. And because he’s currently a county clerk, Schoeller said he’ll be ready to collaborate with local election officials about ways to better administer elections.

“I already know how to have those discussions from day one,” he said. “And that's the difference that I think really is critical, because I see the challenges. And I also look at solutions that we can implement, especially when it comes to elections to make a difference.”

Schoeller is not a fan of Missouri’s excuse-based absentee system. While Missouri instituted an in-person voting period when voters can go to a designated polling place two weeks before Election Day for any reason, any absentee voting that happens before that time requires someone to check off an excuse.

Democratic and Republican election officials have pointed out that they don’t have the staffing or the desire to seek out whether a voter is being truthful with their excuse.

“I'm not out to remove the excuse-based system. That is not on my agenda,” Schoeller said. “But certainly personally, I feel like that the government should not have to know any more about my business than they have to.”

Voters take to the polls on Tuesday, Nov. 8, 2022, during the Midterm election at the Ballwin Golf Course and Events Center in Ballwin.
Brian Munoz
St. Louis Public Radio
Voters take to the polls on Nov. 8, 2022, at the Ballwin Golf Course and Events Center in Ballwin.

‘Ship sailed’ on making the constitution harder to amend

Like other GOP contenders for secretary of state, Schoeller believes the Missouri Constitution is too large, and he would rather see initiative petition campaigns to change statutes instead of the constitution.

But unlike other Republican candidates, Schoeller said it’s likely too late at this point for what proponents call initiative petition reform to actually be implemented. He pointed to how efforts to boost the constitutional amendment threshold failed in Arkansas and Ohio.

“I think at the end of the day, though, this issue sailed a long time ago,” Schoeller said. “And so I appreciate the idea, because I do want a limited and small constitution. But I don't see practically the voters doing that.”

He also said it may be a blessing in disguise that efforts to raise the constitutional threshold failed, especially if voters back an effort to legalize abortion later this year. Schoeller notes that if it was more difficult to amend the constitution, it would also be harder to repeal or change the abortion legalization amendment.

“I think that's why you've got to really think through these issues before you end up doing something that later on that you look back at and regret,” he said.

Other Republican secretary of state candidates include House Speaker Dean Plocher, state Sens. Mary Elizabeth Coleman and Denny Hoskins, Wentzville municipal judge Mike Carter, state Rep. Adam Schwadron, St. Louis County resident Jamie Corley and St. Louis resident Valentina Gomez. State Rep. Barbara Phifer is the most well-known Democrat candidate who filed.

Jason is the politics correspondent for St. Louis Public Radio.