JEFFERSON CITY, Mo. – Two pieces of voter identification legislation, HJR 53 from Rep. Tony Dugger, R-Hartville, and HB 1631 from Rep. Justin Alferman, R-Hermann, made progress in the House on Wednesday, which Dugger’s HJR on the way to the Senate and Alferman’s bill perfected.
Dugger argued that his resolution would make the election process more reliable and dissuade voter fraud, while House Democrats decried the legislation as an attempt to stymie voting rights.
“This process will bring integrity to our election process,” he said. “This HJR is not disenfranchising any voter in this state.”
Rep. Bill Kidd, R-Independence, added that discussion on the two bills should be civil and that members of opposing parties should “resist the temptation” to question the motives of their opponents.
“We must ensure that no law would hinder any legal vote, and we must protect the integrity of our elections and keep this fundamental right,” he said. “The vast majority of the voting age public already carry a voter ID… but for those who do not, the sponsors of this bill have gone to great length to make sure photo ID is available for free.”
However, the divide on the floor was clearly partisan. Democrats made up the majority of those who testified. Rep. Michael Butler, D-St. Louis, asked Dugger if he supported small government efforts.
“Smaller government gets out of the way of Missouri citizens, makes it easier to access their government,” Butler said. “What your bill does is require a government issued ID to get in the way of a citizen participating in their government.”
Rep. Stacey Newman, D-St. Louis, also found the legislation troubling, citing the decision of the Missouri Supreme Court in 2006 that found the concept unconstitutional and that voting rights were fragile.
“Our voting history is scarred,” she said. “For a long time, it was only white male landowners that had that right… It took 150 years just for us women to get the right to vote. We have fought hard in our country for every single adult to vote freely and without obstacles.”
In response, Rep. Shamed Dogan, R-Ballwin, argued that people had a right to at least vote if they disagreed with the state’s highest court.
“When you disagree with a Supreme Court decision, you don’t have riots in the street, you don’t impeach judges,” he said. “You can amend the constitution. We are just asking the people to do that.”
Newman also brought notice to Secretary of State Jason Kander’s office who found that around 250,000 people in the state of Missouri did not have a form of identification that would fit the parameters of Alferman’s legislation. Dugger rejected those figures and found the method of Kander’s study flawed.
Testimony in hearings the past few weeks noted that some who would allegedly be disenfranchised because of this legislation would be minorities, students, the elderly, and the poor.
From there, Rep. Brandon Ellington, D-Kansas City, proposed an amendment that would alter the language of the title of the resolution to include “voter suppression” which promptly failed. Rep. Randy Dunn, D-Kansas City, noted what he saw as an irony in arguing about voting rights just days after Martin Luther King Jr., and Rep. Clem Smith, D-St. Louis, argued that Republicans only supported the bill because it would help them in future elections.
“This is a partisan issue,” Smith said. “We can say it’s about rooting out corruption, it’s about cleaning up the system. It’s not. This bill will increase the Republican stronghold on this state, whether its indefinite or for a temporary amount of time.”
Alferman’s bill will be discussed tomorrow.