By Sen. David Sater
One of the most sacred rights guaranteed to Americans and Missourians is the right to vote. It is a cornerstone of our democratic form of government and ensures that the people that represent us do so by our consent and not by force or by virtue of their name or hereditary title, as it once was. With that in mind, it stands to reason that only eligible voters should pull and fill out a ballot in elections that affect our lives and course of our country. In short, confirming that each voter is lawfully registered and lawfully resides in this state is essential to protecting the integrity of elections.
Currently, Missouri voters are only required to present one document to prove their identity, but are not required to present photo identification to vote. While no photo ID is required to vote, you do have to present an ID to open a bank account, apply for welfare, get on a plane, rent a car or rent a hotel room. Forgive me if this sounds condescending, but what sense does it make to require someone show an ID to rent a hotel room but you don’t have to when picking the next president? Do we really want to be a country that values the integrity of a car rental over our elections?
The sacred right to vote and of fair elections is rendered meaningless if improper and illegal votes dilute the voices of lawful voters. The margin of victory in the 2000 presidential election in Florida was a mere 537 votes out of a total of more than 5.8 million votes cast. That means just a difference of one vote in every voting precinct in the state could have changed the outcome of the election. In 2008, Minnesota’s U.S. Senate seat was won by Al Franken by just 312 votes out of nearly 3 million cast. If you remember, this handed Democrats in the U.S. Senate the 60th vote they needed to eventually pass ObamaCare. Elections matter and votes matter. If illegal or improper votes find their way into our elections, it thwarts the true will of the voters, can tip the scales, and result in something like ObamaCare that will have consequences for years to come.
So what do the American people think of voter ID laws? A Rasmussen Reports poll released in June of last year found support for voter ID laws at 76 percent. That’s nearly identical to the 78 percent that supported voter ID laws a decade ago. Even 58 percent of Democrats in that poll believed you should have to show an ID before voting while 92 percent of Republicans and 78 percent of unaffiliated voters think so. That’s as close as it comes to a sure thing in American politics.
In spite of what critics would have you believe, this is a real problem and it requires a real solution. The Missouri Legislature debated a photo ID voting requirement this past week and this isn’t the first time. For nearly a decade now, photo ID bills have been introduced in either the Senate or the House or both. The first push came in 2006 when the Legislature passed a photo ID law, only to have it thrown out by the Missouri Supreme Court with a circumspect state constitutional argument. That led to our more recent efforts to let the people of Missouri decide in a statewide ballot if they want to put it in our state constitution. The new law would allow voters to present one of many types of ID including a Missouri driver’s license, non-driver’s license or any ID issued by the U.S. armed forces. Those without an ID could still go ahead and cast a provisional ballot, but would have to come back and prove who they are for their vote to count. We also are going to require the state to provide at least one form of identification at no cost to the voter. The bill was debated at length this week but still has one more hurdle before it clears the Senate. I am committed to supporting it when finally reaches a vote and I believe a majority of my colleagues in the Senate will support it, too.
In the world we live in, there is no reason why someone can’t get an ID and or prove their identity before they vote. Doing so would ensure we are protecting the integrity of our elections and we owe that to the people of Missouri. I trust the people of Missouri agree and will vote to put voter ID in our state constitution.
As always, I welcome your ideas, questions and concerns about Missouri government. You may contact me at the State Capitol as follows: (573) 751-1480, david.sater@senate.
mo.gov or by writing to Sen. David Sater, Missouri State Capitol, Room 419, Jefferson City, MO 65101.