For the eighth straight year, the Republican-controlled House of Representatives on Feb. 14 approved legislation that seeks to require Missourians to show government-issued photo identification at their polling place in order to vote. Such a requirement could potentially disenfranchise many of the estimated 250,000 Missourians -- mostly elderly, poor, disabled and minority voters -- who don’t posses a driver’s license or other government ID and can’t easily obtain one. The House action, which Democrats opposed, came on a pair of companion measures, which now move to the Senate.
HJR 5, a proposed constitutional amendment that would appear on the November 2014 statewide ballot for voter ratification, passed 107-46. It would grant the General Assembly the power to impose a photo voter ID requirement in an attempt to overrule a 2006 Missouri Supreme Court decision that said lawmakers lack such authority under the state constitution. HB 48, which passed 105-48, would implement the ID requirement, contingent upon voter approval of HJR 5.
In addition to the 2006 photo voter ID law the Supreme Court invalidated, Republican lawmakers also passed a proposed photo voter ID constitutional amendment, along with implementing legislation, in 2011. Gov. Jay Nixon, a Democrat, vetoed the implementing bill, and the proposed amendment didn’t go on the November 2012 ballot as scheduled after a judge ruled Republican lawmakers had crafted “insufficient and unfair” ballot language for it that was designed to deceive voters.
As the Supreme Court noted in its 2006 decision, the only type of fraud that a photo voter ID requirement could prevent is voter impersonation at the polls. There has never been a reported case of voter impersonation in Missouri.