Attempts have been made in our state to pass voter photo identification laws, and our 2006 Missouri’s General Assembly passed the first such law. It was signed by the governor, but ultimately was struck down by Missouri’s Supreme Court as being unconstitutional. Photo identification voting laws have always stirred up partisan party politics, but supporters of this measure—mostly conservative Republicans—contend that photo ID laws are common sense protection against fraudulent voting. Supporters maintain that photo ID requirements would protect the integrity of the election process and help prevent fraud. They also contend that the current system makes it too easy for fraud to occur, and, unfortunately, it is a reality of life in America that there is voter fraud.
Opponents argue that there isn’t significant evidence of massive voter fraud occurring at the state’s polling places, and they denounce the legislation as discriminatory and an attempt to disenfranchise voters who are more likely to vote the Democrat tickets. Some opponents are estimating that in Missouri, approximately 200,000 citizens will not be able to vote if voter ID laws were to pass. However, there is no way to substantiate these figures, and it is important to note that this legislation has safeguards in place to prevent citizens from not being able to vote if they truly want to. These voting measures would allow citizens to obtain a government-issued ID free of charge. For those born before 1941, they would be able to cast provisional ballots that would require their signature to match the signature on the voter registration in order to have their vote counted.
Because the voter ID law of 2006 was struck down by the Court, lawmakers today must pass two pieces of legislation for it to become law: HJR 47 and HB 1073. HJR 47 is a legislative referendum that only requires passage by the General Assembly in order to be placed on the statewide ballot. If approved by voters, it will then become a constitutional amendment that will require an individual to produce a form of photo ID in order to vote. HB 1073 requires passage by the General Assembly and the signature of the governor to become law. This is the same process that took place in 2011, but at that time Governor Nixon vetoed the bill and a judge struck down the ballot language for the proposed amendment, thus neither became law. Last year, the House again passed voter ID legislation, but it was never taken up in the Senate and the whole process died.
The U.S. Supreme Court ruled in 2008 that states can require voters to produce a photo ID at the polls without violating their constitutional rights. This past year the high court threw out a key part of the landmark Voting Rights Act. This decision allowed voter ID laws to take effect in states where voting procedures had been under strict federal oversight for nearly fifty years. Today at least thirty states require some form of identification to be presented at the time of voting, and eleven states have passed strict voter ID requirements. Many of these are being challenged in the courts. Currently, Georgia, Indiana, Kansas, and Tennessee are strict ID states that require a photo. Arkansas, North Carolina, Mississippi, Pennsylvania, Virginia, Wisconsin, and Texas have all passed similar ID restrictions, but Texas law is the only one in effect at this time.
Requiring a photo ID is in no way an effort to suppress any valid vote; it is a common sense measure to help secure the credibility of our elections. Personally, I have always been a supporter of fair elections and have encouraged those who are eligible to vote to do so. Why would we want to open up ourselves to even the suggestion of fraud when we have such a simple way to avoid it?