Currently, Missouri is among the states classified as “ID requested; photo not required.” If Missourians were to pass the photo requirement, it would make our state one of the strictest states for showing proof of voter identification. Ironically, this issue has always fallen along partisan political lines. Republican lawmakers maintain that the requirement of a photograph to identify oneself would help to prevent voter impersonation fraud. They argue that a photo ID is just a common-sense requirement considering the day and the times in which we live. The fact that there are so many non-citizen people from other countries in the U.S. makes it difficult to determine who is and who is not a legal voter. Today a photo ID is needed to purchase cigarettes, alcohol, or even to open a checking account at the local bank. If one has a Missouri driver’s license, one must have a photo on that document.
Those in opposition to a voter photo ID, generally Democrats, say that this legislation seeks to disenfranchise groups who are older and poorer and who traditionally would vote the Democrat ticket. They are quick to point out that there have been no such cases of voter fraud in Missouri. However, Republicans are just as quick to counter that the lack of documented cases of fraud is not evidence of a lack of fraud, but of the overall difficulty to investigate it. Voter fraud is extremely tough to track down and to prosecute.
Those who are in favor of photo ID legislation maintain that they are not trying to keep any eligible voter from voting, but that their goal is to protect Missouri’s election process and to help keep the elections honest and fair. The proposed legislation would require a person seeking to vote in our state to present a valid photo ID. Photo ID could be an unexpired Missouri Driver’s License or a Non-Driver’s photo ID, a document with an individual’s name and photograph on it, any unexpired armed services ID with a photo, or a U.S. passport. The bills allow that the state would provide the necessary funds to acquire documentation necessary to obtain a valid Missouri photo ID for those individuals who do not have their own funds to do so. It has been roughly estimated by the Missouri Secretary of State’s office that perhaps as many as 200,000 Missouri voters lack proper photo ID. These proposed bills also contain exemptions for those people who have religious objections to photo ID or who were born before 1950 when not all births in Missouri were recorded with the state.
One of the proposed bills—House Bill 30—would put in statute how voter ID would be implemented in Missouri, while House Joint Resolution 1, if passed by both chambers (the House and the Senate), would go to the ballot as a constitutional amendment. If passed by the people, it would become law and would be a voter requirement in our state. Even if it were passed this year, the earliest date for a statewide vote on a constitutional amendment would be 2016. If it were approved in 2016, the photo ID mandate would not take effect statewide until 2018.
This is now my 5th session to listen to and debate the issue of photo ID, and I still believe it to be a common sense idea to ask Missouri citizens to show a proper photo ID before being allowed to cast one’s votes. Generally speaking, almost all Missourians must have some form of photo ID in order to be able to conduct day-to-day business that is necessary to live and work in today’s society. I would certainly question the Secretary’s of State’s office and its rough estimate that there are up to 200,000 Missourians of voting age without any photo ID. How many individuals nowadays do not have a work photo ID, a driver’s license photo ID, a school photo ID, an armed services photo ID, or another form of photo ID? And even if there are those who do not have a valid photo ID, the state will provide these individuals with one free of charge, if requested. What legitimate reason is there for any voter to not have access to valid photo ID?
This session, the bills’ sponsors are confident that the time has come for voter photo ID legislation to be passed by the General Assembly and then sent on to the people for their approval or rejection on the next statewide election ballot.