JEFFERSON CITY, Mo. – The Missouri General Assembly voted Wednesday to override Gov. Jay Nixon’s veto of a bill that sets up the framework for photo voter ID in Missouri elections. The vote was 115-41 in the House and 24-7 in the Senate.
In the House, Rep. Justin Alferman’s bill passed with more votes than it did the first time around, but as expected there was significant debate before a previous question cut it off.
Attorney General Chris Koster, the Democratic nominee for governor, figured into Republican arguments for the legislation.
“This bill protects the right to vote without placing excessive regulations on the voting process,” Alferman said quoting Koster. Later, when moving for a vote, he encouraged all members of the body to stand “side-by-side” with the attorney general and vote to override.
Before it got to that point, Democrats pushed, like they did in the spring, for Republicans to name a situation in which this bill would have prevented voter impersonation fraud in Missouri.
Republicans brought up two Democratic members of the chamber involved with current or past instances of voter registration fraud and Rep. Mike Colona, D-St. Louis, jumped on the difference.
“You can’t use the St. Louis City or Jackson County scenarios as examples of something that this legislation would fix,” he said. “That’s a red herring.”
While speaking with Rep. Judy Morgan, Rep. Stacey Newman said there have been no documented cases of voter impersonation fraud in Missouri since the 1930s and that the bill would cost $17 million to implement.
“I have never been able to hear someone give one recent, documented, prosecuted case,” Morgan said. Newman called the legislation “absolutely nuts.”
Alferman pushed back against claims by Newman that the bill would keep people from voting.
“No other voter ID law in the country has gone as far as the safeguards we have put into this bill to make sure no voters are disenfranchised,” he said.
Rep. Jake Hummel, D-St. Louis, the House minority floor leader, called the bill voter suppression designed to aid Republicans in elections.
“The right to vote is meaningless if arbitrary legal barriers prevent citizens from exercising that right. House Bill 1631 undermines the integrity of our elections by suppressing the votes of thousands Missourians for rank partisan advantage,” he said in a statement. “Fortunately, the final say on whether all legally qualified Missouri voters will continue to enjoy their full rights doesn’t rest with Republican lawmakers but with Missouri voters. We are confident voters will reject the GOP’s attempt to steal elections by suppressing the opposition.”
Senate uses previous question to pass HB 1631
In the Senate, the law needed a motion to previous question to succeed after nearly three hours of debate and what at times seemed like an attempted filibuster. Most Republicans voted for the previous question, with the exception of Sen. Bob Dixon, R-Springfield.
A previous question has been used in a veto session before in 2014 on two bills by Sen. David Sater on extending the mandatory waiting period for an abortion to 72 hours.
Democrats stalled on the legislation for as long as possible. Democratic Senators Jamilah Nasheed and Maria Chappelle-Nadal both spoke at length against the proposal. Nasheed said that the Senate sponsor, Will Kraus, had no legal proof to show the bill.
“[He] cannot point to one single instance of voter fraud that would be prevented by voter ID,” she said. “It’s fraud to suggest that it’s fraud.”
Kraus countered that impersonation fraud could not be detected, but that there were people trying to illegally influence elections in other cases of fraud around the states.
“People are trying to change the outcome of elections,” he said. “I think it’s time we move into the 21st century and make sure we can identify people at the polls.”
The bill’s Senate handler, Kraus released a statement following final approval in his chamber.
“People expect integrity in their elections, yet an election seldom goes by without accusations of some type of fraud,” he said. “With election fraud possibly occurring in every other aspect of elections, it is hard to believe voter impersonation fraud is somehow non-existent; unfortunately, there is no real mechanism to be sure. House Bill 1631 gives our election officials a tool to help detect and prevent voter fraud.”
“House Bill 1631 is the culmination of nearly a decade of work on this issue in the Legislature,” Kraus added. “As the cornerstone of our democratic process, protecting the integrity of our elections is of the utmost importance, and I am hopeful Missouri voters will approve the photo voter ID measure in November.”
Republican candidate for secretary of state Jay Ashcroft, who has campaigned on the voter ID legislation, also applauded the override.
“Today, the Missouri legislature took an important first step in protecting our elections from fraud by passing a common sense photo ID requirement for voting,” he said in a statement. “As we have seen as recently as last month, as long as we have elections, there will be attempts to cheat. The photo voter ID measure passed today will not disenfranchise a single eligible voter and, instead, will only make it harder for those who seek to cheat our elections. I look forward to working to pass the accompanying amendment in November.”
Mike Louis, president of the Missouri AFL-CIO also chimed in to object to the passage of the law.
Travis Zimpfer contributed to this report.