Wednesday, April 14, 2021 – Two dangerous voter suppression bills are to be heard in the Missouri Senate Committee on Local Government and Elections. MO JWJ’s St. Louis Champions Organizer, The Rev. Dr. Teresa Danieley, submitted the following testimony against HB334 and HB738. For democracy to work, it must include all of us – no exceptions. Bills like HB334 and HB738 only serve to keep primarily low-income, Black, and brown Missourians from exercising their full rights to vote and be heard.
Dear Chairwoman Crawford and members of the Committee on Local Government and Elections,
I am the Rev. Dr. Teresa Danieley, a priest in the Episcopal Diocese of Missouri for 17 years and St. Louis Champions Organizer with Missouri Jobs with Justice for 3 years. I am writing to urge you to oppose HB 738 and HB 334 being heard before you today. Both are unnecessary impediments to Missourians voting – particularly voters with limited physical or vehicular mobility.
HB 738 would prohibit any election changes within six months of an election, which would have prevented the implementation of COVID-19 voting provisions passed by the Missouri General Assembly in response to public health concerns posed by the COVID-19 pandemic. It would prohibit the counting of absentee ballots until after all votes cast on Election Day have been counted, which would needlessly impede election administration and delay results. Missouri already prohibits tabulation of absentee ballots until Election Day. Election authorities need more lead time, not less. It would also mandate hand-counted paper ballots, further delaying results, and eliminating options for voters with disabilities to cast a secret ballot. When I served as a parish priest for 12 years in the City of St. Louis, I often accompanied voters with disabilities to their polling places; voters with disabilities need greater access to voting, not less. HB 738 would also require all in-person voters (including in-person absentee voters) to provide non-expired state issued photo ID issued by the state of Missouri or federal government to vote, which would eliminate the non-photo ID options currently allowed to vote, including a voter identification card issued by the election authority, and eliminates the Secretary of State’s obligation to notify voters about voter ID rules. Again, voters need greater access to polls and government offices, not less. Many voters do not have the transportation, financial means or flexibility to go to the appropriate government office during normal business hours.
In addition, I write in opposition to HB 334. It is unnecessary, expensive, unconstitutional, and undermines the Missourians’ right to vote. HB 334 would impose a strict photo ID requirement to vote by eliminating non-photo ID options currently allowed to vote under §115.427 RSMo. It would also eliminate the Secretary of State’s obligation to provide advance notice of voter ID requirements to voters. This legislation is unconstitutional and would make voting more difficult for Missouri voters.
There is no evidence of voter fraud. We should be encouraging all eligible Missourians to vote, not making voting in Missouri even harder than it already is. Please do not pass HB 738 or HB 334 out of committee. Blessings to you as you fulfill your elected duties. May “the welfare of the people be the supreme law.” Thank you.
The Rev. Dr. Teresa K. M. Danieley