You might think that we had better things to do in the Capitol than making it harder for Missourians to vote.
As you know, I have taken the lead on fighting Voter ID bills since first elected four years ago. Every major newspaper in Missouri (and many throughout the country) has repeatedly denounced efforts since 2006 to prevent lawful voters from voting....the St. Louis Post-Dispatch, the Kansas City Star, the Joplin Globe, Columbia Daily Tribune, Columbia Missourian and even the Sedalia Democrat, home of the bill sponsor.
Every Democratic Governor and every Democratic Secretary of State in the country have consistently vetoed or denounced voter ID bills. Every Democratic legislature has stood strong in opposition.
Thursday the House passed HB48 & 216 and the companion resolution to change the Missouri Constitution, HJR 5 & 12 after being fast tracked these past three weeks and pushed the past 8 years. They move now to the Senate.
We debated Voter ID bills for over 5 hours on Wednesday in three separate sessions (breaking for committee hearings) and then again on Thursday for 2 hours. Debate was then shut down by the Majority Floor Leader John Diehl (R-Town and Country) when it was evident the GOP had run out of those willing to debate. However, many Democratic legislators were still standing at microphones waiting to be recognized and anxious to speak.
Requiring a government issued photo identification in order to vote in Missouri is a two-parter:
1) The Missouri Supreme Court ruled in 2006 that requiring Voter ID's in order to vote is unconstitutional. Their 6-1 decision stated that mandating Voter ID's is a "heavy and substantial burden on Missouri's free exercise of right of suffrage".
So, for Voter ID to become legal, we must FIRST CHANGE our state constitution by the vote of the people. This would be a first for Missouri ---adjusting a fundamental right that has been unaltered since 1875. The earliest this could be on a statewide ballot would be November, 2014. The ballot proposition would NOT go to the Governor or the Secretary of State, but directly to the ballot, unless stopped in court.
2) If and only then, would a Voter ID bill, if passed and signed, go into effect.
"Republicans keep trying to fix a problem that doesn’t exist by suppressing the votes of hundreds of thousands of Missourians, most of whom are likely Democratic voters." St. Louis Post-Dispatch editorial, February 13, 2013 - read it here.
WHAT COULD POSSIBLY BE WRONG WITH THIS IDEA?
- Over 250,000 current Missouri voters do not have government or state issued photo identification (a drivers or non-drivers license) and MOST IMPORTANTLY, cannot easily obtain the required documents to get one. As the Missouri Supreme Court ruled, the effort to obtain out-of-state/country birth certificates, marriage licenses, etc. for many is a substantial burden in both time and cost - and for some, their birth certificates don't even exist. Many are longtime voters who have done nothing wrong and would lose their right to vote.
- These proposals primarily affect seniors, veterans, working poor, minorities, and even out-of-state college students (groups who tend to vote Democratic). They deserve a real ballot which counts.
- GOP leaders, GOP governors and GOP consultants throughout the country have repeatedly admitted publicly that Voter ID proposals are on purpose -restricting voters is their strategy to win elections. They admit to rigging the vote in attempts to save their elected jobs.
- Not one case of voter inpersonation fraud has EVER been reported in Missouri (very few around the country). Not one case. Any registration fraud would NOT be impacted by these bills.
However, Voter ID bill sponsor Rep. Stanley Cox (R-Sedalia) wrote in his Capitol newsletter last week: "the state has a long history of voter fraud, especially in urban centers". I and others asked him repeatedly what he meant.
“Jim Crow is alive in this room today,” said Rep. Chris Kelly, a Democrat from Columbia who served in the Legislature in the 1980s and ’90s before returning in 2009. “This is the single most immoral act that I’ve ever seen happen in my time in the General Assembly.”
VOTING IS THE ONE TIME IN WHICH WE ARE ALL EQUAL
No matter what you look like or how much money you make, voting makes us equal. These anti-voting bills are designed solely for one reason: preventing lawful voters from voting.
Voting is a definitive American right - protected in the U. S. Constitution and emphasized even stronger in our Missouri Constitution (unlike many states).
VOTERS MUST CHOOSE OUR LEADERS....NOT POLITICIANS ABLE TO CHOOSE THE VOTERS
Every GOP state representative voted NO on both bills. HB48 &216 passed the House 105-48.
The resolution, HJR 5 & 12, passed by a vote of 107-46. Two Democrats, broke ranks and voted with the GOP: Rep. Vicki England (D- South St. Louis County) and Rep. Ira Anders (D-Independence).