JEFFERSON CITY, Mo. – Senate Republicans saw their opportunity to pass a photo voter ID law Monday night, and they took it. The bill passed 24-8 along party lines with no discussion Tuesday.
With both Sen. Maria Chappelle-Nadal, D-St. Louis, and Sen. Jamilah Nasheed, D-St. Louis, absent Monday night, two of the staunchest opponents of HB 1631 did not have a chance to speak against the measure before it was perfected. The Senate’s vote effectively ended a filibuster on the legislation that had occurred incrementally for the better part of a month.
For Sen. Will Kraus, R-Lee’s Summit, the perfection of the bill is a step over a large hurdle that he hopes will propel the legislation through the process.
“Closing on these measures effectively ended the filibuster, even though the Senate did not take a final vote,” Kraus said in a statement. “We’ll be able to take a vote and send the bill back to the House to consider our changes.”
The most notable change to the legislation is a final Senate substitute that would allow certain voters without a photo voter ID to sign an affidavit under threat of perjury to verify their identity. Voters with severe disabilities, religious objections to ID or those born in 1940 or earlier would qualify. After signing the affidavit, that person could cast a ballot and identify themselves via various methods, including utility bills, a college ID, a bank statement, or an ID from the state of Missouri or US government agency.
If someone does not fit into those exceptions, an election official can take a picture of that person, place it into the voter’s registration file, and allow them to cast a provisional ballot.
While Kraus said the bill was “nowhere near where I would want it perfectly,” he noted that he was pleased with the compromise from both sides of the aisle to make a bill at least palatable to the opposition.
“It’s a good first step in that direction. It allows people to get their ID and won’t prevent them from voting on a normal ballot on the first go around.” Kraus said. “The intent’s never been to disenfranchise anyone, it’s to make sure we have the requirement.”
Democrats noted they would likely still vote no on the measure even after the Senate substitute was adopted, but Sen. Jason Holsman, D-Kansas City, sounded encouraged by the progress made on the bill when he spoke with Sen. Scott Sifton, D-St. Louis, on the floor.
“Earnest and sincere negotiations were continuing to happen [during debate],” he said. “I think this substitute is a product of those negotiations. I can tell you the Senate functioned properly as opposed to how it functioned with SJR 39. This legislation will suppress less voters than when we started.”
Sifton was less impressed.
“I think it’s less awful,” he said.
The St. Louis senator later said that just because the bill had been perfected, did not mean the fight would necessarily be over from Democrats.
“We are not out of the woods yet on voter ID this year,” Sifton said. “All that has happened at this point in the process is that one house bill has been perfected with a Senate substitute. That alone does not make voter ID a law.”
However, Kraus believes this bill is the one that will finally go the distance.
“This is the implementation of photo ID that we’ve been waiting on for 10 years,” he said. “I believe this will be the bill that implements photo ID in the state of Missouri.”
Kraus was careful to note that passing the bill along to the House was only the first step of the process. Should the House and its handler Rep. Justin Alferman accept the changes to the bill and then pass it, the Senate would then need to pass HJR 53. That resolution also has a Senate substitute that would also have to be approved by the House.