The Missouri General Assembly is again seeking to limit voter rights by requiring citizens to show a state driver’s license or other form of government-issued photo identification at the polling place.
The House already has passed a photo ID bill, along with a resolution to place a constitutional amendment on a statewide ballot later this year. Republican lawmakers want voters to ratify their actions to head off a legal challenge.
The Senate is scheduled to hold a hearing on companion legislation Monday.
The legislature’s Republican majority has been trying to enact voter ID legislation since 2006. Their attempts have been derailed in various years by legal action, a veto by Democratic Gov. Jay Nixon and legislative deals and disarray.
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Missouri is fortunate to have dodged the unnecessary and manipulative photo ID requirements. Documented instances of actual voter identity fraud are nearly nonexistent. The Republicans’ intent is to suppress voting among constituencies that tend to favor Democrats.
Here’s who will lose if the proposals approved by House members find their way into law:
▪ About 220,000 Missourians. They are currently registered to vote but lack a government-approved ID, according to an analysis by Secretary of State Jason Kander’s office.
Many of these people would have to use considerable time and expenses to secure the required documents, such as a passport or certified birth certificate. Low-income people who live in rural areas or lack good transportation options would be the most hard-pressed to meet the requirements.
▪ College and university students. The House bill does not accept a school ID as a valid form of identification. Many college students are without a Missouri driver’s license.
▪ Older Missourians. Seniors are the group most likely to lack a current driver’s license. The bill would allow people who show up at the polls without a required ID to sign an affidavit stating they lacked the financial means to pay for supporting documentation or were born before Jan. 1, 1946. They could then fill out a provisional ballot.
Provisional ballots often go uncounted, however. The legislature’s attempt to turn senior citizens into second-class voters is deplorable.
▪ Women. The bill would require people to obtain new documentation after a name change, which most frequently affects women.
▪ Taxpayers. To ease legal concerns, the bill requires the state to provide one acceptable form of personal identification, such as a non-driver ID card, to otherwise qualified voters who are seeking the ID solely for voting purposes. The cost is estimated at more than $10 million in 2017, the year the new law would go into effect.
Covering the costs so that citizens can exercise their constitutional right to vote is the correct thing to do, but the hefty expense is unnecessary. Republicans have not been able to produce one recent instance of a citizen attempting to vote under a false identity.
▪ Future generations. The right of Missourians to vote is enshrined in the state Constitution. Passage of a constitutional amendment requiring official photo IDs would be the first crack in that foundation. All citizens should reject such a precedent.