Missouri lawmakers introduce photo ID requirements

MU students could become disfranchised should proposed legislation pass.

With the start of the 2015 legislative session, legislators in the Missouri General Assembly have proposed multiple bills that would create new voter photo identification requirements.

The bills have been proposed by Rep. Tony Dugger, R-Hartville, Rep. Charlie Davis, R-Webb City, Sen. Will Kraus, R-Lee’s Summit and Rep. Joe Don McGaugh, R-Carrollton. Each would alter Missouri’s voting laws to require voters to provide a form of photo identification.

Currently, Missouri law does not allow for voter photo identification requirements, due to a Missouri Supreme Court case in 2006 that struck down a law that would have required voters to present photo identification to cast their ballot.

“This is the ninth year since the 2006 (state) Supreme Court ruling that the legislature has tried to pass this type of bill,” said Denise Lieberman, senior attorney for the Advancement Project, who works on its voter protection program. “They’d have to amend the constitution to do so, to strip out part of the protections our constitution gives to the right to vote.”

The legislation proposed by the state congressmen is extreme, Lieberman said.

“The proposed bills would be one of the strictest voter ID laws in the country, stricter than Texas and North Carolina,” he said.

Dugger and Kraus have both proposed constitutional amendments that would alter the Missouri Constitution to allow for voter photo identification requirements. Both amendments would need to be approved by voters in order to pass.

However, Lieberman said the current system is adequate.

“We already have voter ID in Missouri; the difference is that it allows for a range of forms of ID and it works,” Lieberman said. “There’s never been a single incidence of voter impersonation in Missouri.”

Lieberman said she is against any new legislation that could disfranchise voters in an effort to protect against potential fraud.

“We believe that voter ID laws stand to make it harder to vote for millions of people across the country,” Lieberman said. “Approximately 250,000 voters in Missouri do not have a form of photo ID. This requirement falls disproportionately on voters of color, on students and on the low-income community.”

Students could be affected by the requirement to have a Missouri-issued ID. Under some of the proposed legislation, out-of-state college students might not be able to vote.

“One of the ways students are affected is that they may not drive or they may have valid drivers’ licenses from other states (under some of the proposed legislation, these students could not use this as a form of ID),” Lieberman said. “(Legislators) often come back and say, ‘They’re not Missouri residents’ and that’s simply not true. The Supreme Court affirmed that students have a right to vote where they go to college.”

Kraus said he decided to propose his legislation due to a gap he sees in the system.

“We believe that we need to protect our election process,” Kraus said. “Right now all you need to go vote is a utility bill, and right now anywhere else, to go buy tobacco or alcohol, you need an ID.”

Kraus said he is also concerned about the verification process of voter identities.

“How can you prove someone is not who they say they are without an ID?” Kraus said.

McGaugh said he introduced his legislation because he feels the current identification requirements are not adequate.

“Missourians need to identify themselves when they show up to a polling place to request a ballot,” McGaugh said. “That is what the law says. My bill ensures that the documents they use are true identifiers.”

Other states with photo identification requirements for voters set the example concerning the effects on voters, Kraus said.

“I do not believe it will impact voter turnout,” Kraus said. “I do believe that Kansas had a higher turnout in 2014 than we did and they have a requirement for voter ID.”

According to the United States Elections Project, Kansas did have a higher turnout rate in the 2014 General Election, with 42.5 percent of its voting-eligible population casting a ballot, compared to Missouri’s 31.8 percent.

Within the group of proposed bills, the identification requirements vary.

McGaugh’s bill completely eliminates the use of a current utility bill, bank statement, government check, paycheck, or other government document to establish a voter’s identity.

Under Dugger’s bill HB 30, voters would be required to present a non-expired Missouri driver's or non-driver’s license, a document issued by the state of Missouri with the voter’s name and photograph, or any non-expired Armed Services photo ID.

Kraus’s bill, SB 170, contains similar requirements. Voters would need a non-expired Missouri driver's or non-driver’s license, a photo ID issued by the Missouri National Guard, the United States Armed Forces, or the United States Department of Veterans Affairs, or a United States or state of Missouri document with the voter’s name, photo, and an expiration date.

However, unlike Dugger’s bill, SB 170 would provide voters who do not have this type of identification with a provisional ballot. If the election authority can verify a voter’s signature, their ballot will be counted in the election.

Davis’s bill, HB 240, allows for a much broader expanse of photo IDs. Voters would need a non-expired Missouri driver's or non-driver’s license, a document with the name and photo of the voter, or any non-expired Armed Services photo ID.

HB 30, HB 240, and SB 170 would also require the state to provide otherwise qualified voters who do not own a form of the required identification with one form, so that they would be able to vote. If there are no funds to do this, the photographic identification requirement could not be enforced.

McGaugh does not expect his bill to affect the budget.

“My bill has no fiscal impact,” he said.

However, Lieberman said funding could be an issue for all four bills.

“The true cost to Missouri taxpayers could be estimated between $14 to $21 million, depending on which piece of legislation would go forward,” he said. “The bills’ fiscal notes range vastly, but the reality is they underestimate the true cost in Missouri.”

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