As the clock ticks down to the final deadline for Rep. Todd Akin (R-Mo.) to withdraw from the U.S. Senate race in Missouri, other legal provisions of the state’s election law will begin to take effect, hampering efforts favored by much of the Republican establishment to force him from the race.
Akin, formerly considered one of Republicans’ best chances at a Senate pickup, drew ire from conservatives nationwide over comments he made about pregnancy in cases of “legitimate rape” being rare.
Republicans, including Mitt Romney, asked Akin to drop out of the race, but he has persisted, despite effectively becoming a political pariah in his party. He has since trailed Sen. Claire McCaskill (D) in nearly every poll released except for one immediately following his comments, and one commissioned by Republican group Citizens United that showed him up by 5 percentage points.
According to Missouri state election law, the final deadline for Akin to exit the race is Sept. 25, at which point he would have to file a court order with the state board of elections to be removed from the ballot. That later deadline gave Republicans hope that he could drop out after he realized the uphill battle he’d be fighting this fall.
But many election jurisdictions have already begun to print ballots, creating a potentially monumental headache for the candidate if he were to wait until that deadline. By state election law, Akin would be awarded a court order to be removed from the ballot only if he agreed to pay for those ballots already printed with his name to be reprinted.
Conversations with the 10 largest voting jurisdictions by population in Missouri reveal that at least six have already issued orders for absentee ballots to be printed, with two more expected to do so on Tuesday of this week.
Military and overseas ballots are required by Missouri election law to be sent out by Sept. 22, a Saturday, so all jurisdictions contacted said they’d be sending out their ballots this Friday. Other absentee ballots — which can make up to tens of thousands of ballots in a single jurisdiction — must be available to voters by next Tuesday. Because printing companies are handling a large volume of orders at this time, many jurisdictions have already submitted their orders for processing, to receive them in time for that Friday deadline.
The estimated total Akin would have to pay for ballots already printed in the four districts with readily available sums would be just under $100,000. That’s four jurisdictions out of 116, and includes mostly just absentee ballots, not all ballots already printed by the counties.
At the end of the last filing deadline, Akin posted just over $525,000 cash on hand — though that number is likely to have fluctuated some following a grassroots fundraising push and his campaign’s release of multiple ads since mid-July. If he were to drop out now, much of his remaining funds would have to go toward paying off those ballots, likely a hefty sum for a state as large and populous as Missouri.
Campaign spokesman Ryan Hite said the fact that printing was already taking place indicated state officials had accepted his continued candidacy.
“Congressman Akin has made clear to Missouri voters that he is staying in this race all the way to November, and county election boards are taking him seriously,” Hite said in a statement.
It’s not just the likely repercussions of a withdrawal that could keep him in the race, though — Akin has been persistent in fundraising and campaigning, and has released multiple new ads.
Akin has pledged to raise enough money to stay on the air in Missouri until Election Day. He’s attempting to do that through small-scale money bombs, asking supporters to contribute small donations to achieve a goal of hundreds of thousands over the course of a few days. He launched another last week and doubled his fundraising goal to $125,000 by midnight on Monday after it was surpassed on Sunday.
But according to a recent report from the National Journal, Akin refuses to take on debt both in his personal life and in his campaign, an atypical position for any politician, let alone one facing as stark a cash disadvantage as Akin.
McCaskill posted almost $3 million more cash on hand than Akin at the end of the last reporting period, in mid-July, and the National Republican Senatorial Committee has since abandoned the candidate financially and withheld technical support.
The National Journal report also indicated Akin might find motivation to persist from something no party controls: God. During a campaign stop chronicled in the magazine, Akin told supporters that he is “standing for, the idea, first of all, that God gave us life.” His wife also cited God as getting them through the primary, and said that she expects the campaign to manage even with tight funds.
“We’re gonna see it again, because God wants to be honored,” she told National Journal.
Sources within Missouri from both sides of the aisle remarked in the weeks during which Akin received a battering from the GOP that the backlash was unlikely to shake him, as Akin has never been known to be much of a party follower. He is known, instead, for listening mostly to his family and a small circle of advisers; his son is his campaign manager.