Photo identification requirement for Missouri elections goes to voters

The Missouri General Assembly is giving voters the final decision on requiring government-issued photo identification to vote in an election.

The measure will appear on the statewide ballot after the Senate passed the proposed constitutional amendment the Monday of the last week of the legislative session by 25-9, which gave the measure the final approval it needed to make it out of the statehouse.

If passed, voters would need to bring a non-expired driver’s license, non-driver’s license, military identification or any other U.S. or Missouri document with a signature, photo and expiration date to vote.

Republicans said the bill would help prevent voter fraud; Democrats said it would instead disenfranchise voters.

The Missouri Supreme Court struck down a similar law that required photo ID to vote in 2006. In its 6-1 decision, the majority wrote that the law “represents a substantial and heavy burden on Missourians’ free exercise of their fundamental right to vote.”

Like the unconstitutional 2006 law, the original bill indicates that those without IDs may vote with a provisional ballot that would be counted at a later time. However, the new bill also provides the option to obtain a non-driver’s license at the expense of the state to those without IDs.

Sens. Kevin Engler, R-Farmington, and Bill Stouffer, R-Napton, sponsored the bill, arguing it would cut down on voter fraud.

When the bill was still in hearings, Stouffer said they expected a precedent set in 2008 by the U.S. Supreme Court to help their case for constitutionality. The U.S. Supreme Court ruled a similar Indiana statute to be “… amply justified by the valid interest and protecting the integrity and reliability of the election process.”

Democratic Secretary of State Robin Carnahan, who openly opposes requiring photo ID, has reported that roughly 230,000 voters do not have the kind of identification the measure would require.

The secretary of state’s office declined to comment and Carnahan was not available for comment.

Along with the photo ID requirement, a measure for an early-voting period the nine days before an election will also be considered by the voters in 2012.

– Missouri Digital News