Welcome to Club Democracy … are you in or out?

The old courthouse in downtown St. Louis became the setting for our latest We Live Here podcast. TIM LLOYD | ST. LOUIS PUBLIC RADIO

Do you remember the first time you learned about special clubs and cliques? Maybe you were in grade school?  

There’s a good chance being in the club, or group, came with special rules and rituals, perhaps even a secret handshake.

We know,  this seems kind of random. But trust us, we're going somewhere with this. 

Because, with a historic Election Day rapidly approaching, we wanted to take some time to consider a much larger club.

You could call it “Club Democracy” and consider voting its fundamental benefit.

In recent years, there’s been a wave of states that have enacted new laws that changed who can vote and how. Since 2008 there’s been a sharp increase in the number of states with strict voter ID laws meant to protect the integrity of the ballot box.   

On today’s show we travel the country to the answer a seemingly simple question: What does it take to get into Club Democracy?  

What you’ll hear in the episode

Wisconsin has enacted one of the strictest voter ID laws in the country. But things haven’t gone exactly as officials had planned. You’ll hear from a Molly McGrath, with the nonpartisan group Vote Riders. She’s spent the past several months helping people comply with Wisconsin’s year-old voter ID law. Her secret recordings ignited a firestorm of controversy and ultimately led to changes in how new voter rules are implemented in the state.

The back and forth about voting laws has bled into Missouri politics. On Nov. 8, voters in the state will decide whether to enact a voter ID law similar to the one in Wisconsin. St. Louis Public Radio’s political reporter, Jason Rosenbaum, joins us in the studio to give some context behind the ballot measure. And, more specifically, he explains why Republican state officials say such laws are needed in the "Show Me State."

In many places in the U.S., a criminal conviction also means losing your right to vote.  But in one state, those restrictions are being challenged. This spring, Virginia Gov. Terry McAuliffe made national headlines when, in one fell swoop, he restored the voting rights of about 200,000 felons. Mallory Noe-Payne, a producer in Richmond, Va., has been following the decision. She gets us up to speed on the legal back and forth following McAuliffe’s move and the push to register ex-felons in the state. 

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