JEFFERSON CITY - Missourians who are eligible to vote by provisional ballot will be able to do so in their own precincts under a settlement reached Thursday by top Democratic and Republican officials.
State Auditor Claire McCaskill and Sen. Maida Coleman, both Democrats, had sued Secretary of State Matt Blunt, a Republican, over rules Blunt had issued last week.
"This case has been resolved with no one winning and no one losing," Judge Byron Kinder said after the parties reached a settlement. "...There will be no question about what people will do under this new provision."
The source of the problem was an election-reform law passed by the legislature this year in the aftermath of problems in St. Louis during the 2000 election. At issue then were long lines, inaccurate voting rolls and allegations of vote fraud. The new law mandates provisional voting but directs the secretary of state to issue the rules for it.
Blunt issued a rule that Democrats said would bog down the election process and not solve the problems.
The rules the parties settled on Thursday state that polling-place judges must try to contact the central election officials to check if the person is actually eligible to vote. If a voter's eligibility cannot immediately be established, then he or she must be given a provisional ballot.
Both Blunt and Coleman called the settlement a victory.
Blunt agreed, calling the ruling "a victory for good government" and said the rule change involved only a "slight change of verbiage." But he maintained it was a win for his side, protecting against the Democrats' attempt to "provide an open invitation to wholesale vote fraud and planned confusion in St. Louis."
Blunt's spokesman, Spence Jackson, said the Democrats' lawsuit would have given voters the right to vote provisionally in any jurisdiction. That was left out of the final settlement.
Coleman said Blunt's rules violated the law passed by the legislature last session, which allowed anyone to vote with a provisional ballot.
"I believe that the only rules that need to be in place were set by the legislature," she said.
Coleman accused Blunt of playing politics with the elections.
"It was a total political play of Matt Blunt's part. This had nothing to do with what was fair. It had to do with cheating Democrats from the polls in the city of St. Louis."