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Clerks Unable to Print Absentee, Overseas Ballots Due to Lawsuits

County clerks across Missouri would like to start printing their ballots for the November election now…but they can’t. KSMU’s Jennifer Davidson explains why.

Legal struggles over the wording on the ballots means county offices are on standby until those issues are resolved.

The wording of Amendment 3—the amendment about how Missouri selects its judges—is still up in the air because a group of Missourians allege in a lawsuit that the current wording is prejudicial and unfair. A hearing on that case is set for September  11th in Cole County.

On Tuesday, a Cole County judge struck down Secretary of State Robin Carnahan’s wording of Proposition E—that’s the one on health insurance exchanges—and inserted his own wording. Carnahan’s office will not appeal that decision.

Greene County Clerk Richard Struckhoff says the ongoing litigation puts his office in a tight spot—although not necessarily an unfamiliar one.

“I can recall several times where courts have changed the language, even up to three or four weeks out of the election—or removed an issue from the ballot that close to an election. However, in those days, we were still using the punch card ballot and it was easy to adjust:  we only had to change the pages on, say, 100 or some-odd vote recorders.  But now, because we’re using an optical scan ballot, any changes like that that occur causes us to have to reprint any ballot,” Struckhoff said.

And reprinting ballots would be a very expensive, time-consuming process.  That’s why, Struckhoff says, he’s very reluctant to press forward with any printing. However, there’s one thing complicating the matter further:  looming deadlines.  

“For example, because of the MOVE Act, we have to have our military and overseas ballots ready to go 45 days before the election: that would mean September 22 is the drop date for that.  Then, six weeks out, September 25, is when absentee voting starts,” Struckhoff said.

In the past, Struckhoff says his office has had to send out proofs of ballots instead of actual ballots—but that he prefers to have the actual ballot ready to go for those deadlines.

Currently, there’s also litigation to get payday loan and minimum wage issues on the ballot. Those proceedings are scheduled to move forward next week.

For KSMU News, I’m Jennifer Davidson.