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Voter ID draws stark partisan lines

JEFFERSON CITY, Mo. — Senators Will Kraus and Jamilah Nasheed both drew from simple populace views for their arguments for and against a voter ID law.

Kraus, R-Jackson County, said 70 percent of Missourians want a voter ID law, especially since most citizens think they already have to show some form identification to vote.

Sen. Will Kraus
Sen. Will Kraus

Nasheed, D-St. Louis, thinks there’s no need to make it harder to vote and that any obstacle would only decrease turnout and create more apathy about the voting process.

But Nasheed says the bill is widely supported in the Republican-led Senate. She told The Missouri Times that Republicans were prepared to move the previous question against possible Democrat filibuster, immediately ending debate and forcing a vote. Currently the bill is still in the Financial and Government Organizations and Elections committee, which has a Republican majority.

Assistant Majority Floor Leader Mike Kehoe, R-Jefferson City, said he had not heard anything about using previous question and that the strategy was not discussed in leadership meetings. He said voter ID was discussed but only as an important issue.

Kraus says he is sponsoring, SB 511 for one simple reason: to prevent voter fraud. He spoke of one example, a man in New Mexico trying to vote for his grandson — he was only caught when the birthdates did not match up.

“It’s not disenfranchising voters,” Kraus said. “Voters who vote multiple times are diluting their vote.”

Nasheed pointed out that there has never been a reported case of voter fraud in Missouri.

“This is bringing poll taxes back,” Nasheed said.

Sen. Jamilah Nasheed
Sen. Jamilah Nasheed

Democrat opposition to the bill maintains it is aimed to keep minority voters away from the polls. Kraus counters that a provision of his bill is allowing for a free state ID to be available for any Missouri residents that lack one. Recent research has pegged the number of voters without IDs to be about 221,000 people, just under the population of St. Louis city.

“The ID is free,” Nasheed said. “But what if they lost their birth certificate? They have to buy gas to get downtown. This is just a waste of time.”

Twelve states currently require some form of identification to vote — Kraus reported that in one of those states, Georgia, minority turnout increased from before the law was passed.

Nasheed believes a voter ID law would be unconstitutional.

“It’s unfortunate that Republicans are trying to reduce voters in the state of Missouri,” Nasheed said.

The bill will likely come out of committee, but no vote has been announced.