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Vote 417 group aims to support voters’ rights 

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Vote 417, a newly formed Springfield-based organization, has launched with the stated aim of fighting voter suppression. 

Jacob Brower filed articles of incorporation for Vote 417 LLC with the Missouri secretary of state on Dec. 3. 

Brower described himself as volunteer treasurer and spokesperson for the group, and he said it has a twofold approach: to advocate for pro-voting rights candidates and causes and to educate the public about voting rights and practices. 

“We’re a local group, but we support democracy and oppose autocracy wherever it may pop up,” Brower said. 

Brower said he is one of a handful of people who organized the group, and all were motivated by the Jan. 6 attack on the U.S. Capitol. Around 200 people now have joined the group, he said. 

He acknowledged the group is mostly left of center, politically. 

“Our doors are definitely open to our more conservative friends,” he said. “We have a few of them who are pro-democracy but still hold conservative views.” 

Brower declined to name the members of the four-person advisory board. 

“I don’t know their level of comfort right now as far as it being a public thing,” he said. “We have a lot of people who are business owners. I give my opinion way too much for somebody who’s trying to sell stuff.” 

Brower owns a marketing company, Archer’s Bow Media and Marketing LLC.  

Another member is Bob Stephens, who served as mayor of Springfield from 2009 to 2017. 

“Basically, I’ve been unhappy with what I’ve seen over the last couple of years in terms of different states, different jurisdictions, trying to restrict voting rights and limit who could vote and how they can vote,” he said. 

Stephens said he would like to see the movement catch on. 

“I would like to see an increase in the membership – people recognizing that the right to vote is under attack, people who are willing stand up for democracy,” he said. 

Stephens said as a Springfield City Council member and later mayor, he saw great value in voters participating in the democratic process. 

“I realized how valuable it was for regular people to have input,” he said. “We had our regulars who would talk to us at council about different things and so forth, but it really came down to the majority vote. … I think that is one of the things that truly sets the United States apart from other countries and other types of government.” 

Both Stephens and Brower pointed to the current crisis in Ukraine as illustrating the importance of protecting democracy. 

“Seeing the outcome of democracies being weakened worldwide and the direct attack on the democratic nation of Ukraine, we’re paying close attention, and we’re pulling for the Ukrainian people,” he said. 

The organization has a web presence with a donation page. Brower said he has not filed for 501(c)(3) nonprofit status, though he said he has filed with the Federal Election Commission and the Missouri Ethics Commission. 

So far, the group has taken in about $700 in donations, according to Brower, who has donated his own money to help cover expenses like web hosting, web building and social media and app-based ads. 

“We’ve covered our expenses to this point, but we haven’t built up a war chest yet,” he said. 

He added the group is still in the very formative stages. 

“Our mission is very broad: It’s to support pro-democracy candidates and oppose those who aren’t in favor of democracy. That’s pretty much as simple as I can make it,” he said. 

“We’ll be running ads in the U.S. Senate race, depending on who comes out of the primaries, U.S. House and local races – things of that nature.” 

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jeffmunzinger

The League of Women Voters for years has been promoting voters' rights on a nonpartisan basis. In our state, it has been the so-called "Conservative Caucus" within the Missouri Senate, and their counterparts in the Missouri House, that have followed the lead of other conservative entities to propose voting restrictions. Voting should become easier, and more user-friendly, but our legislators seem intent on making it more difficult under the guise of preventing voter fraud.

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