Secretary of State Jason Kander admonished the Republican dominated General Assembly Wednesday over legislation passed last year requiring voters to provide a photo ID before they can cast a ballot.
House Republicans responded by ditching a planned resolution that would have thanked Kander for his years of service.
Kander, a Kansas City Democrat, has long opposed voter ID legislation, arguing that it serves no purpose and yet could disenfranchise certain voters.
After more than a decade of trying, GOP lawmakers successfully approved voter ID legislation last year, and a voter ID constitutional amendment was approved by voters in November.
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In a speech to the Missouri House Wednesday, Kander said he’s heard that lawmakers are considering stiffening the voter ID law. He warned against taking such actions.
“I know some folks here and across the state try to pretend other elections issues would be solved by a new photo ID requirement, but that’s just not true,” Kander said, later adding: “You can protect the integrity of elections without stopping anyone from voting”
If the GOP insists on going down this path, he said, “I guess we'll see you in court.”
Previously, voters had to provide some form of ID to get a ballot, but the list of acceptable IDs includes some without a photo, such as a utility bill, bank statement or paycheck.
Under the new law, voters can still 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.
Republicans argue that voter ID laws are designed to prevent fraud and improve trust in the election process. Proponents of last year’s bill say it was the result of negotiations with Democrats to ensure no one would be disenfranchised.
Democrats point out that under the current system, there has never been a reported case in Missouri of the type of fraud prevented by photo ID laws. And they paint the issue as blatantly partisan, saying those who are less likely to have a government-issued photo ID are minority voters, college students and people living in poverty — groups statistically more likely to support Democrats.
In an interview with The Star after delivering his speech, Kander said despite compromises included in the legislation, Missouri’s voter ID law would “still disenfranchise some voters.”
“I opposed voter ID in the first place, but Republicans made a deal to limit the number of people who are disenfranchised,” Kander said. “I felt it was important while I’m still the chief election official of this state to stand up for voters. I don’t want to see (the legislature) make it even worse.”
Republicans reacted to Kander’s speech with outrage.
“That was a slap in the face to the democratic process,” said state Rep. Allen Andrews, a Worth County Republican.
Other Republicans took to Twitter to respond.
Rep. Justin Alfermann, a Gasconade County Republican who sponsored 2016’s voter ID bill, said he “has no plans at this point to alter what we did last year.”
House Minority Leader Gail McCann Beatty, a Kansas City Democrat, called the Republican decision to pull the resolution thanking Kander for his service, “a touch petty.”
Kander ran unsuccessfully last year for U.S. Senate, falling just three percentage points short of knocking off Republican Sen. Roy Blunt, despite the fact that Donald Trump won Missouri by 19 percentage points. Since then, Kander has become a celebrity in national Democratic politics, recently traveling to Iowa to discuss how Democrats can win in states dominated by Republicans.
Kander will be replaced by Republican Jay Ashcroft next week as secretary of state. Ashcroft supports voter ID laws.
The 2017 legislative session kicked off Wednesday at noon in the Missouri Capitol.