The Labor Tribune

Labor News From Our Region

Missouri’s new photo voter ID law compared to ‘Jim Crow’

One of the nation’s most restrictive voter ID laws kicked in last week in Missouri.

St. Louis voters will be among the first to go to the polls under a new statewide photo-identification voting law, during a special election for an aldermanic seat in July.

But Missouri’s top election official, Secretary of State Jay Ashcroft, acknowledged in a May 31 interview with the St. Louis Post-Dispatch, the state won’t be ready to provide free IDs to all in that election who may need them.

Missouri voters passed Constitutional Amendment 6, the new photo voter ID law, last November. The law was heavily promoted by Republicans and approved by 63 percent of Missouri voters.

Under the new rules, voters will need a government-issued photo ID, such as a Missouri driver’s license, non-driver license, U.S. Passport, or U.S. Military ID, or provide other documents, such as a Voter Registration Card or sign a statement affirming their identity. Voters who don’t have any documents available, will be able to cast a provisional ballot, but that will only count if the voter brings an acceptable photo ID back to the polling place the same day, or if their signature matches the signature on file with local election officials.

RETURN TO JIM CROW

Activists and elected officials who gathered on the steps of the Old Courthouse reccently to decry the new law allege it was designed to make it more difficult for Democratic-leaning constituencies to vote.

“When my ancestors, who were slaves in this country, first won the right to vote, the reaction was to pass Jim Crow laws to keep us from voting — things like literacy tests and poll taxes,” St. Louis Treasurer Tishaura Jones said. “Voter ID is another poll tax.”

Jones and other activists estimate some 220,000 Missourians currently lack a state-issued photo ID.

“Invariably, this law will cut people out,” warned St. Louis attorney Denise Lieberman of Advancement Project, a civil rights organization based in Washington.

State Senator Jamilah Nasheed (D-St. Louis) noted that turnout in the 2016 presidential race in Texas was down in Democratic areas, after that state’s voter ID law went into effect.

“That’s what will happen here in the state of Missouri,” she warned, “if we don’t hold their feet to the fire.”

ROADBLOCK AT THE BALLOT BOX

A provision in the new law requires state funding for its implementation — including providing IDs and other documentation free of charge to any voters who need them — and a public information campaign to ensure people understand what’s required.

Ashcroft kicked off a statewide Voter ID Informational tour last week, starting in Columbia, to meet with the public and media to publicize and answer questions about the new law. Public service announcements have also begun airing on radio and television stations across the state.

Missouri Democratic Party Chair Stephen Webber called the tour “spin” and criticized the “Republican establishment” in Jefferson City for making it harder for Missourians to vote.

“No matter how hard Jay Ashcroft tries to spin these voting restrictions, the new rules are still an unacceptable attempt from the Republican establishment in Jefferson City to roadblock Missourians on their way to the ballot box,” Webber said. “We should be making it easier for Missourians to vote – not creating challenges and confusion.”   

WHERE TO LEARN MORE

Ashcroft said voters who do not have a photo ID to vote should call the Show It 2 Vote Hotline at 866-868-3245, or visit ShowIt2Vote.com.

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