Proposed election changes could complicate county clerk's work

Darrell Todd Maurina

PULASKI COUNTY, Mo. (Feb. 4, 2009) — State issues took up much of the county commission’s time in a generally quiet Wednesday morning meeting.

County Clerk Diana Linnenbringer alerted the commissioners that state legislators will consider several items during this year’s session that could affect county government, including several directly related to the conduct of her office.

That legislation includes House Bill 534, which would expand existing voter registration locations to include not only county courthouses and facilities such as vehicle registration sites but also anywhere that sells hunting and fishing licenses. Proponents have argued that the change would make it more likely that Missouri’s community of rural outdoorsmen and hunters would vote, but Pulaski County Commissioners weren’t convinced.

“I can just see liquor stores and places like that which sell hunting and fishing licenses; I don’t think they want to get into voter registration,” said Presiding Commissioner Bill Ransdall.

“I thought ACORN had signed them all up anyway,” said Commissioner Ricky Zweerink, referring to a community organizing group that was accused of voter fraud with numerous questionable voter registration forms submitted during the 2008 election. ACORN organizers focused on inner-city communities whose residents are less likely to be registered t vote but more likely to vote for Democrats.

While Ransdall worried that small stores selling only a few hunting and fishing licenses would have problems with being required to conduct voter registration work, Commissioner Bill Farnham said even large stores might have difficulties training their employees to do something that’s not part of their regular jobs.

“I bet Wal-Mart wouldn’t be very keen on this,” Farnham said.

Linnenbringer also alerted commissioners to House Bill 551, a proposal to move the voter registration deadline to the second Wednesday before the election, giving county clerks only about two weeks rather than a full month to get voter registration records ready for the election.

Linnenbringer said she’d comply with the new deadline if required to do so by state officials, but said it would make life more difficult for her three-person staff.

“On a regular election it would be bad enough, but on a presidential election it would be very tough,” Linnenbringer said.

The county commissioners took no formal action but Ransdall said Linnenbringer is welcome to contact the legislators if she believes it’s appropriate to do so.

“This sounds like it pertains to the chief election official of the county, and that’s you to decide how to respond to it,” Ransdall said.

In other business:

• Farnham said he received a letter from the Missouri Department of Transportation asking county commissioners if they would like to participate in “Operation Orange,” a program that changes lights from their regular colors to orange during part of April to highlight the need for more attention to workplace safety.

“That’d be fine; we can out a cone outside with an orange light or something,” Ransdall said.

• Ransdall announced that the Pulaski County Sewer District will have a vacancy and asked people interested in serving on the board to drop off resumes at the county clerk’s office. Sewer board candidates should be residents of Cullen Township and preferably current customers of the sewer district, Ransdall said. Farnham said Tim Berrier, a former sewer board president who ran against Ransdall in the 2006 general election, is still interested in serving on the sewer board.

Farnham said he’s been receiving requests from developers and from the Pulaski County Board of Realtors for details on how roads should be built prior to being turned over to the county.

“I told (the developer) we’d probably be changing the way we do roads in Pulaski County with having higher standards for how we accept them,” Farnham said. “He asked me if I’d like to speak on it and I said I’d talk to you guys first.”

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