Jefferson City – Missouri’s state legislature is trying to put a constitutional amendment on the ballot that weakens our state constitution, supposedly to crack down on non-existent “voter impersonation fraud.”
“But, believe me, the only imposter here is this bill,” said Missouri Secretary of State Jason Kander in a recent memo to Missourians.
“This measure, which would require Missourians to have a very specific government-issued photo ID in order to vote, is posing as a way to prevent voter fraud – even though there has never been a reported case of voter impersonation fraud in Missouri,” Kander pointed out.
There are two bills working their way through the legislature:
- HB 1631 is a normal bill passed by the House, awaiting a Senate hearing. If it is passed by both houses, it would go to the governor who can sign or veto. He previously vetoed a similar measure in 2011.
- HJR 53 is a constitutional amendment if passed by both the House and Senate would go directly to a state-wide vote. While the governor cannot veto the bill he sets the election date in either August or November.
The Missouri Supreme Court ruled in 2006 that requiring a photo ID was "a heavy and substantial burden on Missouri's free exercise of the right of suffrage."
Unless the Republican-controlled Senate comes to its senses, which is doubtful, HJR 53 could be on the ballot this year.
WILL STOP 220,000 FROM VOTING
Here’s who a voter ID law would impact, Kander’s staff says:
- 220,000 eligible Missouri voters – with minorities, the elderly and the economically disadvantaged who have been legally voting for years being the most affected.
- About 150,000 are people who don’t have a driver’s license, the most common form of photo ID.
- Another 70,000 – mostly the elderly or disabled – have expired driver’s licenses that no longer could be used as IDs at the polls.
Under the Missouri photo-ID bill approved by the House and sent to the Senate, would-be voters could only use certain government-issued identification.
The allowed IDs include drivers’ licenses, passports and military IDs. But all would have to be un-expired.
“We have to get out in front of this,” Kander said. “If this measure is passed, Missourians could no longer use student IDs and seniors couldn't use expired state or federal photo IDs even if they don't drive anymore.”
People without such identification could apply for free state IDs. However, they would have to provide notarized birth certificates and marriage licenses (if their names are not the same as on their birth certificate).
People without such documents would have to acquire them, and that takes a lot of time and costs money. The state would not cover those costs.
For working people, not everyone has the luxury of taking time off of work or paying to obtain a specific kind of government-issued ID.
REPUBLICAN ADMITS PROBLEM
State Rep. Bill Kidd (R-Kansas City) admitted that disenfranchisement “may be an unintended consequence” of this measure. Then what exactly was the intent, Kander questions, “To fix a problem that no one has reported in the state?”
Others have clearly identified the intent: to negatively impact Democratic turnout for future elections given that the vast majority of those who would be disenfranchised are considered to be Democratic voters.
DON’T BE FOOLED
“(While) I have zero tolerance for fraud of any kind, and my record as Secretary of State makes that clear, I’m urging Missourians not to be fooled. This measure is an imposter. We should be making it more convenient for eligible voters to cast their ballot, not less,” Kander stressed.
If the bill becomes law, Missouri voters would have to show one of the following forms of identification:
- A non-expired Missouri driver's license or non-driver’s license ID card
- Any other non-expired document issued by the state of Missouri or the U.S. Government that contains a photograph of the person in question, such as a military ID or a U.S. passport.
Kander makes it clear: the proposed photo ID requirements are too strict and not needed because there is no real voter fraud in Missouri.
(Some information for this story from St. Louis Public Radio, Associated Press, Kansas City Star.)