Monday, November 30, 2015

Reiboldt: It's time for photo voter ID

(From Rep. Bill Reiboldt, R-Neosho)

Missouri’s legislative process will begin this week with the pre-filing of bills for the 2016 session that will start in January. Though numerous bills may be filed, typically only a few will make their way through the House and Senate and on to the governor’s desk. Several pieces of legislation will be considered as priority. One such piece will focus on passing a voter’s photo identification law. Again, legislation will be proposed to create new voter photo ID requirements. Current Missouri law does not demand voters show a form of photo identification when casting their ballots at the polls, though Missouri does require voters to show some form of non-photo ID, such as a utility bill or a voter registration card.

Protecting the election process from potential fraud has always been a priority for Missouri lawmakers, and most believe that requiring a photo ID will benefit the integrity of that process. Proper identification is required for much of what we do. For example, if one uses a banking or financial institution or goes to a hospital or a healthcare provider, it is necessary to show proper identification. Even when writing a check for groceries, one is required to have proof of identity. Why should something as important as voting require any less? It only seems reasonable for voters to provide the same type of identification when casting their votes at the polls, verifying they are indeed whom they claim to be. Many are asking, then why has the issue of providing proper voter photo ID proven to be such a political “hot potato” across our nation.

Those against requiring stricter voting laws—laws that include photo identification—argue that the proposal is an attempt to disenfranchise voters who have a hard time securing the documents needed to get a photo ID. Many times the documents they will need include a birth certificate, a passport, or a valid unexpired driver’s license. Those individuals who have difficulty providing proper identification are oftentimes the elderly, the disabled, and some minority groups. Realizing that these are legitimate concerns and that if any cannot produce proper documentation (such as a birth certificate), some states, like Missouri, have exemptions in place or are endeavoring to get them there in order to allow those persons to work around their obstacles.

Because previous voter photo ID laws have been struck down by our state’s Supreme Court, this issue must now be taken to the voters in order to change the constitution to allow for a voter photo ID law. This can be accomplished in one of two ways, either with a legislative referendum or a petition initiative. There is now a petition initiative being circulated—and gathering signatures—with the intent of it being placed as a constitutional amendment on the 2016 ballot.

If approved by voters, this will pave the way for the legislature to develop the framework of a voter photo ID law.

Some claim that voter photo ID is not needed or that the expense does not justify the end. Unfortunately, overall public confidence in government (and especially at the federal level) is at a low point. Having a tool in effect, such as the voter photo ID law, can be one step in providing a greater sense of honesty in the voting process and helping to rebuild the citizenry’s faith in our voting system. As far as the amount of expense involved, it appears to be minimal.

The argument about showing a picture ID is not a new idea. Back in 2005, a 21-member bi-partisan commission on federal election reform advocated the use of a voter photo ID. This commission was co-chaired by former President Jimmy Carter and former Secretary of State James Baker. The commission “called voter identification one of the ‘five pillars’ that would ‘build confidence’ in the integrity of federal elections.” Only three of the 21 commission members were not in favor of photo identification. The report went on to say that “the right to vote is a vital component of US citizenship and all states should use their best effort to obtain proof of citizenship before registering voters.” The commission’s report also stated, “In close or disputed elections, and there are many, a small amount of fraud could make the margin of difference.”

Perhaps now is the time for Missouri to make changes to its voting system to help ensure that only votes from eligible individuals will be used to determine the outcome of our elections.

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