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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.