Gov. Jay Nixon on Thursday vetoed a bill establishing a photo ID requirement to cast a ballot, calling the legislation “an affront to Missourians’ fundamental right to vote.”
“Making voting more difficult for qualified voters and disenfranchising certain classes of people is wrong,” Nixon said in a letter to lawmakers explaining his veto.
In 2006, Republicans pushed through a photo ID bill that was later struck down by the Missouri Supreme Court. The court ruled that the law amounted to a “heavy and substantial burden on Missourians’ free exercise of the right of suffrage.”
Republicans have pushed for voter ID every year since that Supreme Court ruling, and each time the effort has been derailed by either a court ruling or Nixon’s veto pen. Kansas adopted a voter photo ID law in 2011.
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This year, Senate Republicans negotiated a compromise with Democrats.
Under current law, voters are required to sign in when they seek to cast a ballot and attest that they are who they say they are. They must also provide some form of ID, but the list of acceptable IDs includes some without a photo, such as a utility bill, bank statement or paycheck.
The compromise legislation passed earlier this year would still allow people to cast ballots using a non-photo ID. Those voters would be required to sign a statement attesting to their identity under penalty of perjury. The statement would also inform the voters that they are required to get a government-issued photo ID and that the state will cover the cost of obtaining that ID, as well as the cost of gathering underlying documents needed to get it, such as a birth certificate.
Additionally, a local election authority would be permitted to take a photo of any voter who doesn’t present a photo ID, which would become part of that individual’s voter registration file.
Despite the concessions, Nixon said the bill would still have had a disproportionate impact on senior citizens, Missourians with disabilities and others who have been lawfully voting since becoming eligible but do not have a government-issued photo ID.
The bill “purports to solve a problem which does not exist. Missouri already has strong protections in place to prevent voter fraud, and voter impersonation fraud is an extremely rare occurrence,” Nixon said in a letter to lawmakers.
In addition to the bill setting up the photo ID requirements, lawmakers approved an amendment to Missouri’s constitution that permits the establishment of a photo ID requirement. That proposed amendment, which will appear on the statewide ballot in November, is necessary because of the 2006 state Supreme Court decision.
If voters reject the amendment, then a photo ID requirement continues to be unconstitutional.
Lawmakers will return to the Missouri Capitol in September to consider whether to override Nixon’s veto. It passed both the House and Senate in May with majorities large enough for an override.
Sen. Will Kraus, a Lee’s Summit Republican running for secretary of state, said he is confident the veto will be overridden in September.
“I do not foresee many members switching their votes on this issue,” Kraus said. “Most legislators recognize this is a common-sense measure, and I believe voter ID will be brought up during the veto session.”