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Show-Me Your Photo to Vote in Missouri, Pending November Election

Missouri
is on its way to becoming the 18th state in the country to require photo
identification to vote.

 During
its veto session on Wednesday, the Republican-controlled Missouri Legislature
voted to override Democrat Gov. Jay Nixon’s veto of House Bill 1631, requiring
a photo ID to vote in all elections beginning June 1, 2017.

 

However,
it will go into effect only if voters approve a similar proposed constitutional
amendment on the Nov. 8 ballot. Amending the Missouri Constitution is required
because the Missouri Supreme Court in the past has struck down voter photo ID
laws as being unconstitutional.

 

Both
Missouri chambers had contentious debates about the measure before approving
the override, with a 115-41 vote in the House and 24-7 vote in the Senate.

 

Valid
forms of ID include a non-expired Missouri driver’s license; a document issued by either the United States or Missouri containing the name and photo of the
individual; or any unexpired armed services identification containing a
photograph.

 

In
the event a voter does not have a valid photo ID at the polls, he or she will
be required to present a bank statement, utility bill or other form of
identification and sign a statement asserting eligibility to vote. Such voters also
will be required to have their photo taken at the polls. The voters then will
be issued a regular ballot.

 

Additionally,
the state of Missouri will pay, out of general revenue funds, for one
non-driver’s license for individuals who cannot afford to obtain one on their
own. The state also will pay for obtaining supporting documents such as birth
certificates, marriage licenses, divorce decrees, social security cards or
naturalization documents.

 

Supporters
said photo ID is needed to prevent fraud and “protect the integrity” of elections.
The
bill’s sponsor, Missouri Rep. Justin Alferman, a Republican from Hermann, said
recent election issues around the state highlight this need. He cited a special
election being held Friday in the 78th House District (in St.
Louis City) in which absentee ballot procedures from the Aug. 2 primary were
challenged in court.

“This
legislation has been, from the start, about integrity,” Alferman said. “The
bill still allows anyone to vote without an ID as long as they sign an
affidavit. And they can cast a regular ballot, it is not a provisional ballot. Not
a single Missouri voter will be disenfranchised. We all need an ID to cash a
check, get a business license, get a driver’s license, use a credit card. It
makes sense to have a photo ID to vote.”

 

Opponents,
including Gov. Nixon, said the measure will disenfranchise citizens, especially
the disabled, elderly and low-income individuals.

 

“This
legislation is such an affront to Missourians’ fundamental rights to vote that
it requires that our Constitution be amended for its voter suppression
provisions to become effective,” Nixon said in his veto statement. “Making
voting more difficult for qualified voters and disenfranchising certain classes
of people is wrong. Putting additional and unwarranted barriers between
citizens and their ability to vote is wrong and detrimental to our system of
government as a whole.”

 

Missouri
Rep. Stacey Newman, a Democrat from St. Louis County, said the measure will
cost the state an estimated $17 million to implement.

 

“It’s
too costly with the promise to pay for documents and IDs,” Newman said. “The
funds are not appropriated. We can’t fund other necessary things in the budget
such as education and transportation. But suddenly we have money for this in
the budget. There’s no mechanism for funding this. It also turns voters away.”

 

However,
Alferman said that because the law will not go into effect until June 2017,
funds will not have to be appropriated until the legislature begins its next
regular session in January.

 

Thirty-four
states have laws requesting or requiring voters to show a form of
identification, according to the National Conference of State Legislatures
(NCSL). Thirty-two currently are in effect, with West Virginia’s going into
effect in 2018. The other one, in North Carolina, was struck down by a federal
court in July. It has been appealed to the U.S. Supreme Court.

Seventeen states currently ask for a photo ID; 16 accept non-photo IDs.
States that have passed strict photo ID laws are Georgia, Indiana, Kansas,
Mississippi, Tennessee, Virginia and Wisconsin. Nine other states have
non-strict photo ID requirements, meaning voters must be offered an alternative
such as signing an affidavit before voting.

In July, a federal court ruled that Wisconsin’s law is unconstitutional.
The court ruled that an alternative must be permitted, such as signing an
affidavit. Pennsylvania also passed a strict photo voter ID law, but it was
struck down in state court.

 Newman
cited Pennsylvania, North Carolina and Wisconsin as reasons to vote against the
measure because their photo ID requirements have failed legal challenges. Alferman
said other laws have been ruled unconstitutional because they did not provide
financial assistance to voters in order to obtain a proper ID.

 

“No
other bill in Missouri or the country has gone as far as assuring that there is
no voter disenfranchisement,” Alferman said.

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