House approves stricter voter ID legislation

Missouri currently does not require photo ID at polling places.

If passed, legislation would require voters in Missouri to present photo identification to participate in elections. Rep. Tony Dugger, R-Hartville, sponsored two bills necessitating the use of government-issused identification to vote.

The Missouri House of Representatives passed two pieces of legislation Thursday that would require Missourians to present photo identification in order to vote in public elections.

House Bill 48 and House Joint Resolution 5, both sponsored by Rep. Tony Dugger, R-Hartville, would together prevent potential voters in the state from casting a ballot without a government-issued form of identification. Both pieces of legislation were approved by the House and will now be considered in the Missouri Senate.

HB48 would take effect once approved by the Senate, signed into law by Gov. Jay Nixon, and after the approval of HJR5 by the voters of Missouri.

HJR5 would take the form of an amendment to the Missouri Constitution specifying the legality of a photo identification voting requirement in Missouri. Constitutional amendments in Missouri must be approved by the voters, so HB48 could not take effect if HJR5 is not approved on the ballot.

Individuals without an ID will be able to obtain one at their polling place at no cost under the proposal. Missourians that lack a required form of identification due to physical or mental disabilities or handicaps, the inability to pay for a birth certificate or other necessary documentation for voting materials may cast a provisional ballot, but only after signing an affidavit.

Additionally, those who can't pay for birth certificates or other documentation required for state-issued identification or those with sincere religious beliefs against forms of identification may sign the same affidavit and cast their vote.

The current Missouri law requires a prospective voter to present a government-issued identification, one issued by a Missouri university or college, a current utility bill or other document that contains the person's name and address or a drivers license from another state.

Supporters of the measures, which sparked heated debate in the House chambers last week, claim the stricter regulations would ensure the validity of each vote.

"We're trying to let the electorate know we are trying to do what we can to make sure that things are transparent, making sure they're legitimate, making sure every vote counts," Rep. Myron Neth, R-Liberty, said.

Opponents lofted charges of racism and of deliberate obstacles to voting while the bill was being debated on the House floor.

"In my opinion, the effect of the legislation is undeniably to make it more difficult for poorer, African American women to go in and vote," Rep. Chris Kelly, D-Columbia, said during the bill's hearing before the entire House.

Rep. Nick Marshall, R-Parkville, defended his support of the bill from the accusations.

"My support of this bill has nothing to do with racism," Marshall said. "It has everything to do with having such a deep and profound respect of the rule by the people."

Currently, Missouri is one of 19 states that requires at least a non-photo proof of residency before distributing a ballot to a voter. Six states require a photo ID, and four states have strict photo ID laws in place that prevents ballots from being counted if a voter cannot present an accepted form of photo ID within a short period of time after the election, according to the National Conference of State Legislatures.

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