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In an effort to walk back earlier comments, Missouri Gov. Mike Parson said he hopes everyone feels safe going to polling places Tuesday because voting is "one of the most important things you can do."

Don't feel safe? Then don't vote, Missouri governor says

Missouri's governor signaled Friday he was likely to sign legislation making it easy to vote by mail during the coronavirus pandemic, but not in time for local elections across the state next week.

Republican Gov. Mike Parson tipped his hand as he sought to tamp down a budding furor for what he said a day earlier. Critics viewed him as cavalierly dismissing anxieties of those having to venture out Tuesday for failing to qualify for an absentee ballot under the current excuse requirements.

"I hope people feel safe to go out and vote, but if they don't, you know, the No. 1 thing — their safety should be No. 1," Parson said during a press briefing Thursday. "If they don't, then don't go out and vote."

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Missouri mail-in curbs head to state's top court as governor mulls exemption

The Missouri Supreme Court will review the state's limitations on voting by mail, among the strictest being enforced in the country this spring, in case the governor rejects legislation relaxing the rules.

The appeal comes after a trial court judge dismissed a lawsuit seeking to make absentee ballots available to everyone in the state starting with the Aug. 4 primary.

Exposure to the coronavirus should be reason enough to vote by mail, and the state's rebuffing of that valid excuse during the pandemic is unconstitutional, the suit maintains. It's the same argument being made by voting rights groups hoping to force relaxation of excuse requirements in the remaining handful of states that have not done so voluntarily: Texas, most prominently, plus, Tennessee, Mississippi and Connecticut.

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The bill to expand mail-in-voting options for Missourians amid the coronavirus pandemic is now awaiting Republican Gov. Mike Parson's signature.

Missouri lawmakers come up with complex rules for mail voting during Covid

Missouri lawmakers have come up with a complex loosening of the rules for voting absentee in light of the coronavirus crisis.

Gov. Mike Parson has not said outright that he will sign the measure, cleared by his fellow Republicans in charge of the General Assembly just before their session ended Friday night. But if he does, the number of states that have kept their strict excuse requirements intact during the pandemic will be down to just four.

The measure would allow people at high risk of Covid-19 infection to obtain a vote-from-home ballot for the rest of the year. It would allow all other Missourians to vote that way as well, but only if their ballots included the electronic or physical signature of a notary.

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In 2018, a majority of Missouri voters supported a ballot measure for redistricting reform, but the latest action from the Republican-controlled Legislature threatens to undo that result.

GOP arranges a do-over for Missouri voters on revamping redistricting

Voters in Missouri will decide this fall whether to abandon a decision they made just two years ago, which was to minimize power politics and maximize fairness and competition in the drawing of legislative boundaries.

A measure added to the November ballot on Wednesday by the Republican-majority General Assembly would essentially reverse those priorities, and also do away with plans to put dominant power over redistricting in the hands of a nonpartisan statistician.

The referendum now looms as an ominous, and rare, potential counterweight to a string of good-government reforms adopted across the country by the will of the people in recent years. Its adoption would be the most prominent repudiation in years of a citizen-driven effort to fix democracy's challenges.

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