JEFFERSON CITY, Mo. – HB1073 and HJR 47, bills requiring photo identification to vote, are both now before the Senate, where 1073 was referred to the Senate committee on Governmental Accountability and Fiscal Oversight last Friday, and where HJR47, sponsored by Rep. Stanley Cox, R-Sedalia, has remained on the informal calendar for more than a week.
“HB 1073 simply ensures that on Election Day those individuals that are legally registered to vote and wish to participate in the electoral process without the threat of their vote being watered down by illegitimate votes are allowed to do so,” said bill sponsor Rep. Tony Dugger, R-Hartville. “At the same time, HB 1073 protects the right to vote of those Missourians legally registered to vote but who don’t have a photo ID on Election Day due to some reason out of their control.”
“We will be assured that our votes will count for what they should – one vote,” Cox said.
Senate Pro Tom Dempsey, R-St. Charles, has supported putting the measure to a public vote.
The bill would require Missourians to show valid photo identification in order to vote in public elections. Should HJR 47 pass both chambers, the initiative would be placed on the November 4 ballot.
“We believe that there is no voter fraud. There is no reason for more burden on longtime voters,” Rep. Stacey Newman, D-St. Louis, said.
“Missouri’s Voter Rolls are severely inflated due to various reasons,” Dugger said. “There are 15 counties in Missouri with 95% or more of their eligible voters registered to vote,” said Dugger. “One county, Reynolds County, actually has more registered voters than eligible voters. With that problem out there, the potential for fraud is quite prevalent. There is no verifiable way to ensure that a voter voting on Election Day is who they say they are without some sort of a photo ID requirement.”
“This is a joint effort with the RNC and ALEC,” Newman said. “They have no claim that voter ID would fix.”
Both HJR47 and HB1073 have provisions for exceptions to the law, such as those with religious objections, as well as a cut-off for senior citizens.
“For these individuals that might not have an ID there is a provision in the bill for the state to provide a voter with an acceptable ID,” Dugger said. “Also, there are exemptions to the photo ID requirement for those that might have a religious objection, physical handicap, or inability to acquire an ID due to age.”
“This bill doesn’t disenfranchise a single Missourian and it most certainly does not discriminate against a single person who wishes to have their voice heard on Election Day,” Dugger said.
Newman said that the voter ID initiatives put the elderly, disabled, minorities, college students, and especially women at a disadvantage.
The cost of acquiring a valid form of identification is free for low-income residents, though the funds must be appropriated by the state. Democrats are hoping that last week’s unfavorable ruling in a Wisconsin voter ID case will keep Republican’s from moving forward.
“Last week, a federal judge struck down a very similar Photo ID law in Wisconsin, once again proving that these types of extreme proposals are unconstitutional on both state and federal levels,” said Democratic Secretary of State, Jason Kander. “Legislative proposals here in Missouri could disenfranchise approximately 220,000 registered voters–that’s not just unconstitutional, that’s an attack on the fundamentals of our democracy.”
“It’s an interesting issue,” Cox said. “It does not suppress the vote. The minority vote in the states that have adopted it has not gone down.”
“This is voter suppression at it’s worst,” Newman said.
As to whether the initiative will get through to the ballot, Cox said, “It’s purely up to [the Senate]. I think it has a reasonable chance.”
Rachael Herndon was the editor at The Missouri Times and also produced This Week in Missouri Politics, published Missouri Times Magazine, and co-hosted the #MoLeg podcast. She joined The Missouri Times in 2014, returning to political reporting after working as a campaign and legislative staffer.
Rachael studied at the University of Missouri – Columbia. She lives in Jefferson City with her husband, Brandon, and their two children.