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Missouri House Republicans advance voter ID bills over Democratic opposition

The Missouri House will hold a final vote on the voter ID measures Thursday.
The Missouri House will hold a final vote on the voter ID measures Thursday. The Associated Press

The Missouri House on Wednesday gave initial approval to a pair of bills that would require Missourians to present a photo ID to vote in public elections.

Both bills are expected to pass the House and be sent to the Senate on Thursday.

The first bill would amend the state’s constitution, upon voter approval, to allow Missouri to require a photo ID to cast a ballot. The proposal, sponsored by Rep. Tony Dugger, a Wright County Republican, is a response to a 2006 Missouri Supreme Court ruling that found a voter ID law unconstitutional.

The second bill, sponsored by Rep. Justin Alferman, a Hermann Republican, would limit forms of acceptable identification at polling locations to government-issued photo IDs. These would include non-expired driver’s and non-driver’s licenses and military IDs. It would not include things like university IDs.

Proponents of a photo ID requirement say tighter election laws help prevent voter fraud. Opponents argue it could potentially keep thousands of Missourians without a photo ID from voting.

“This (proposal) does not disenfranchise any voter of this state,” Dugger said. “We are simply asking the voters that sent us here whether they want us to require photo ID.”

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Alferman said exceptions provided under the proposed bill would allow those with disabilities, religious restrictions or financial constraints to cast a provisional ballot. Those without a photo ID would be required to sign an affidavit stating their name, address and reason for not having a photo ID.

Alferman said voting with a provisional ballot would not disenfranchise voters without photo IDs.

However, Rep. Genise Montecillo, a St. Louis County Democrat, argued that a provisional ballot might discourage lower-income Missourians without photo IDs from voting.

“I think even the idea you might not be able to vote, but you can pick up a provisional (ballot), is discouraging for people that their vote might or might not count,” she said.

Rep. Clem Smith, a St. Louis County Democrat, said the proposed voter ID measures have partisan implications.

“This is a partisan issue,” Smith said. “We can say it’s about routing out corruption or cleaning up the system, but it’s not. My opinion, and the opinion of some of my colleagues and many of my constituents, is this bill will strengthen the Republican stronghold in this state.”

Smith proposed an amendment that would extend accepted forms of identification to concealed carry permits that have photos. Alferman rejected the amendment, suggesting not every county includes a photo on concealed carry permits. The amendment was defeated 102-49.

Rep. Randy Dunn, a Kansas City Democrat, proposed an amendment to implement automatic voter registration, but it was defeated 111-41.

The Senate is considering a pair of similar bills, both sponsored by Sen. Will Kraus, a Lee’s Summit Republican who is running for secretary of state.

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