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As Missouri Weighs Curbing Voter Access, Congress Looks To Expand It

Elections officials closed many polling places in St. Louis County and St. Louis because of the coronavirus pandemic. Voting advocates said voters should prepare to make a plan to vote this year.
File photo / Kayla Drake
St. Louis Public Radio
The Brennan Center, a nonprofit that tracks voting laws, says 43 states are considering 253 bills that would raise barriers to voting.

As Missouri lawmakers contemplate laws making it harder to vote without a photo ID, 42 other states are considering more than 250 bills that would raise barriers to voting. That’s according to the Brennan Center, a nonprofit that tracks voting laws.

Gena Gunn McClendon, director of the Voter Access and Engagement Initiative at the Brown School at Washington University, sees a clear reason for that.

“It’s a backlash to the historic voter turnout in the 2020 election and the success of the Georgia voters to elect two Democrats to the U.S. Senate,” she said on Friday’s St. Louis on the Air.

“I also think that it’s because Republicans were very unsuccessful in reversing the electoral vote from President Biden to the former president,” she added. “It’s racism, power and control — just to make things harder for people to vote, especially Black and other minority groups, college students, who primarily vote Democrat.”

McClendon said efforts to change voter access in Missouri are part of a larger national effort with a single message: “to keep the country from having an effective democracy that works for the people.”

Rep. John Simmons, a Republican from Washington, discussed his bill to require a photo ID to cast a ballot on St. Louis on the Air earlier this month. In addition to his bill, McClendon is keeping a close eye on bills that would prohibit absentee ballots from being counted before ballots are cast on Election Day, purge voter registration records more regularly and eliminate electronic voting machines.

While McClendon is concerned about the measures that would restrict voter access, she is optimistic about the effort to expand voting rights in Congress. She said the For the People Act passed by the U.S. House of Representatives would support and strengthen voting rights like automatic voter registration and early voting, as well as create “a system of fairness when it comes to redistricting and representation.”

Senate Majority Leader Chuck Schumer has committed to bringing the bill, which passed the House along partisan lines, to a vote on the Senate floor. Democrats will need support from at least 10 Republicans to advance the legislation.

St. Louis on the Air” brings you the stories of St. Louis and the people who live, work and create in our region. The show is hosted by Sarah Fenske and produced by Alex Heuer, Emily Woodbury, Evie Hemphill and Lara Hamdan. The audio engineer is Aaron Doerr.

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Emily is the senior producer for "St. Louis on the Air" at St. Louis Public Radio.