Missouri Senate Republicans move forward with voter ID bill

Monday, May 12, 2008 | 9:10 p.m. CDT; updated 8:56 p.m. CDT, Monday, July 21, 2008

JEFFERSON CITY — Senate Republicans pushed forward on Monday with a proposed constitutional amendment that would allow voter identification laws in the state. The issue is one of the most partisan issues to be raised in the legislative session.

The Senate elections committee passed the bill with a 5-4 vote and a final version could be passed before the session ends Friday if Republicans force a vote.

Shortly before the committee vote, Secretary of State Robin Carnahan made a personal plea against the legislation.

She spoke about the financial burden that could be placed on people born in other states, those with disabilities and the poor, who may not have state-issued photo identification and may not have access to the primary documents that are necessary to receive one.

Under the proposed legislation, the state would provide a free identification card to those who do not have one but it does not address the costs of obtaining primary documents necessary for obtaining it. Sen. Delbert Scott, R-Lowry City, chairman of the committee and the legislation’s sponsor, said that is one issue that could change.

Proponents of the proposed legislation said it could eliminate voter fraud in the state and said providing identification to vote is logical because it must be presented to perform other everyday activities.

Although the proposed change focuses on voter fraud, critics accuse the plan of creating a solution to a problem that does not exist.

Some Democratic senators worry it would disenfranchise groups that tend to vote for their party, such as the elderly, the poor and the disabled.

Following the committee vote, Senate members met in a closed-door meeting to discuss possible compromises on the legislation but Carnahan did not attend.

“I’ve not been invited,” Carnahan said.

Sen. Rita Days, D-St. Louis, attended the closed door meeting and said Carnahan was not involved because it is the Senate’s responsibility to discuss possible legislation.

Scott said despite the closed meeting, he expects Republicans will have to force a vote on the plan because Democrats and Republicans have different opinions on the issue.

Current Missouri law requires voters to display identification issued by a college, state or the federal government. The proposed legislation would only give the state the ability to make laws requiring photo identification, a move made necessary after a 2006 ruling by the state Supreme Court which found that requiring photo IDs placed an unfair burden on voters.

Reporter Matt Tilden contributed to this report.

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