There are two very important dates coming up on the calendar for those of us who care about things like a living wage, affordable health care, fair elections, transparency in government – all matters before the voters in one way or another this midterm election in Missouri – not to mention democracy in America. One is November 6, the date of the general election, and the other is October 10, the last day to register to vote in this election.
If you are eligible to vote and not registered, you may have decided your individual vote is worthless. It is easy to prove that outlook is misguided, particularly for black voters. If black votes have no value, then why is so much money, misinformation and energy being devoted to making it harder for black people to vote?
Missouri is one of a growing number of states that has enacted a voter photo ID law, allegedly to combat a type of voter fraud that has never been proven to exist in the state. These laws are pushed by Republicans for the simple reason that they make it more difficult for people to vote who vote against Republicans and their issues. The people who do not have a government-issued photo ID tend to be older minority voters, students, or low-income people who do not drive or travel overseas, and when people in these groups vote they tend to vote for Democrats and progressive ballot initiatives. (We will come back to voter photo ID and voting in the November 6 election in Missouri.)
Republicans have pushed voter photo ID laws for decades, but in this upcoming election cycle we are seeing newer, more aggressive forms of minority voter suppression. As Marc E. Elias, a voting rights lawyer aligned with the Democratic Party, revealed on Twitter on September 4, Trump’s Department of Justice has issued sweeping subpoenas demanding that millions of North Carolina voter records be turned over to immigration authorities by September 25. According to the New York Times, many of the 44 counties whose election boards were subpoenaed have populations that are disproportionately poor and black. “With just two months to go before the midterms,” the Times noted, “the subpoenas threatened to sow chaos in the state’s election machinery.”
If your vote wasn’t worth anything, then nobody would be trying so hard to keep you from voting. So, if you are eligible to vote, it’s time that you register to vote and start voting. You are eligible to vote if you are a citizen of the United States, a resident of the state and jurisdiction where you vote, and at least 18 years old (though you can register when you are 17 years and 6 months of age). If you are a convicted felon, you can still vote in Missouri so long as you are not on probation or parole. You cannot vote if you have been convicted of a felony or misdemeanor connected to voting, or if you have been declared incapacitated.
You may register to vote at your local election authority (300 N. Tucker Blvd. in St. Louis, 725 Northwest Plaza Dr. in St. Ann for St. Louis County). You may access a voter registration form online at https://www.sos.mo.gov/elections/goVoteMissouri/register. Also, the League of Women Voters of Metro St. Louis will register people to vote at 61 area libraries from 10 a.m. to 2 p.m. on Saturday, September 29. You will need your driver’s license number and Social Security number if you have been issued those documents, as well as other identifying personal information.
If you are registered to vote, you should make sure that you are still on the voting rolls. Missouri uses the Voter Crosscheck system, another voter suppression tool that allegedly targets nonexistent types of voter fraud. If someone else with your same name is registered to vote elsewhere, Voter Crosscheck may have falsely flagged you as being registered to vote in two places and removed you from the rolls. To make sure you are still registered to vote, call your local election board (314-622-4800 in St. Louis, 314-615-1800 in St. Louis County) or check at https://s1.sos.mo.gov/elections/voterlookup.
As for Missouri’s voter photo ID law, it recognizes the following as valid IDs: a Missouri Driver License, a Missouri Nondriver License, a U.S. Passport or a U.S. Military ID. If you want to vote and do not possess one of these forms of ID, the state is required to provide you with a Missouri Nondriver License at no cost. Just contact the Missouri Secretary of State’s Office toll-free at 866-868-3245 or by email at email@example.com; the office cannot guarantee how long the process will take without knowing what identifying documents you can provide.
However, registered voters can vote in Missouri on November 6 without a government-issued photo ID. They would need to sign an official statement that they are who they claim to be and show either a voter registration card; an ID from a Missouri university, college, vocational or technical school; or one of a number of documents issued to them: a utility bill, a bank statement, a government check, a paycheck, or another government document showing their name and address.
In the weeks ahead before this crucial election – when so many important matters will be decided relevant to our health, prosperity and identity as a nation – The American will offer endorsements on a wide range of candidates and ballot initiatives. These include an opportunity to raise the minimum wage, clean up many aspects of our elections and politics, and legalize medical marijuana, as well as your U.S. senator, congressional representative and a number of other key offices. In many states, though not Missouri, African-American candidates are on statewide ballots with a real chance to win what in some cases will be historic victories. African-American voters always are crucial to the electoral fortunes of Democrats, and in 2018 they have propelled black Democratic candidates – shockingly – to the general election for governor in Florida in Georgia, among other exciting races nationwide.
In Missouri, we have an incumbent Democratic U.S. senator who has voted consistently to protect affordable healthcare for people with preexisting conditions being challenged by a pro-Trump Republican who has filed suit to gut these very protections. And the statewide ballot initiatives to raise the minimum wage, clean up politics and legalize medical marijuana have the potential to be transformative. But you will not have a say in these matters of dire importance if you do not register to vote before October 10 and exercise your right to vote on November 6. Remember, your vote is your voice and now, in the age of Trumpism, it needs to be heard more than ever.