JEFFERSON CITY — State legislators from both parties said Monday that the federal Supreme Court’s decision to uphold a voter photo identification law will not affect Missouri because of a previous state Supreme Court decision that takes precedence.
The U.S. Supreme Court upheld 6-3 an Indiana statute requiring voters to present a photo ID, saying such a requirement “surely does not qualify as a substantial burden on the right to vote, or even represent a significant increase over the usual burdens of voting.”
But two years ago, the Missouri Supreme Court struck down 6-1 a similar law based on voters’ protections outlined in the state’s constitution. It ruled that requiring voters to present photo IDs was unconstitutional.
House Minority Leader Paul LeVota said each case dealt with separate laws on different levels of government and, therefore, cannot affect each other.
“The state constitution can have its own requirements of the state,” LeVota, D-Independence, said. “This isn’t a similar situation.”
Secretary of State Robin Carnahan, who oversees the state’s elections, issued a news release saying the U.S. Supreme Court’s decision will have little impact on Missouri. Carnahan’s office refused to comment further.
Sen. Delbert Scott, R-Lowry City, who sponsored the voter ID bill two years ago that was ultimately rejected by the state’s highest court, also said Missourians will not be affected by Monday’s decision, which he supports.
“The decision validates that the road we went down two years ago was the right road and the constitutionally legitimate road,” Scott said.
Scott still supports the idea of allowing states to require voters to present photo IDs, saying the decision put the possibility of another voter identification bill “back on the table.”
“It’s the right thing to do,” he said. “If you’ve got to use (a photo ID) to rent a video, you should use it to vote.”
With less than three weeks left in this legislative session, Scott conceded that it’s too late to bring the issue back to Missouri lawmakers.
LeVota said attempts to bring the issue up during the next legislative session will have a difficult time getting around the state constitution.
“My point is they better not violate the Missouri Constitution,” he said. “I don’t understand why anyone would want this bill to add more qualifications or hurdles to vote.”
In 2006, the state Supreme Court found that almost 240,000 Missourians, many of them registered to vote, lack a proper government-issued photo ID such as a driver’s license or passport. The court wrote that obtaining such identification “creates a heavy burden on the fundamental right to vote.”
Democrats have charged that a photo ID requirement would disenfranchise legitimate voters.
But Scott said those who think people would be left out of the voting process are wrong.
“That’s an absolutely made-up reason to scare people into thinking they might lose the right to vote,” he said.
John Fougere, spokesman for Attorney General Jay Nixon, said his office had no comment.