Last Monday, the proposed Voter ID Act was resurrected. By the time you read this, our state legislators will have left the Grey Dome and the fate of the bill has been decided. There are only two possible outcomes: Missouri citizens will be asked to vote on a proposed amendment to our state Constitution, or ... we will wait until next year’s legislative session and the process starts all over again.
The Voter ID law is, in fact, “fear-mongering” by the conservative end of the political spectrum. The Brennan Center for Justice at New York University School of Law conducted a study in 2007 concerning voter fraud and, lo and behold, the state of Missouri is one of the case studies. This research paper, “The truth about voter fraud” by Justin Levitt, provides the reader with one very interesting tidbit of data — voter fraud is not a problem.
In Missouri, more than 2.3 million votes were cast during the 2000 general election. Statewide, there were 278 allegations of voter fraud. Six (that’s six) were demonstrated as ineligible votes. That represents 0.0003 percent (that’s three-ten thousandths of one percent) of the votes cast in Missouri. Levitt’s conclusion: The Missouri’s Voter ID Act could not have prevented these six ineligible votes.
This raises two important questions: 1. Do we need the Voter ID law and, 2. If we do need a Voter ID law, should it or any other law be made a Constitution law? I say “No” to both.
We all, the news media as well as the general public, use “law” when we really mean constitutional law, statute, regulation and court decisions. They have become interchangeable. They are, in fact, different.
Constitutional law deals with the relationships among the three branches of government as well as the relationship each branch has with the citizens. You can get a copy of the U.S. and Missouri constitutions on the Missouri Secretary of State’s Web site. The U.S. Constitution, including all the amendments, takes up all of 16 pages. It is the basis of our federal system and, for the most part, it works very well. The Missouri Constitution, on the other hand, takes up 175 pages. What is wrong with this picture?
Former Colorado Gov. Dick Lamm said that statute, the laws made through the legislative process or by voter referendum, must be written specifically vague — specific enough to know what they concern but vague enough to allow for interpretation. Some statutes permit a regulatory agency to clarify through Regulation. The final interpretation, however, is conducted by the supreme courts of the state or federal government. This is all “law.”
Missouri’s Voter ID statute, section 115.427 of the Missouri Revised Statutes, required a state or federally issued photo ID in order to cast a ballot. It was specific on what was and was not acceptable. By a 6-1 decision, the Missouri Supreme Court struck down this statute.
The court said, “...section 115.427 that requires voters to present certain forms of photo ID before voting violates Missourians’ rights to vote and to equal protection of the law granted by the state constitution.”
The conservatives cried “Foul!” They yelled and pouted, “(The) Majority opinion (of the court) goes against precedent and ignores the will of the Missouri Legislature.” Wrong! The Majority supported the Missouri citizens’ right to vote.
Why make a rule a constitutional law instead of statute? Statute can be changed by the courts, by legislators or by other statutes. A constitutional amendment is extremely difficult to change. Our right-wing legislators know this. They do not want their laws interpreted, inspected or modified. They want a constitutional amendment. They want absolute law and absolute power. And we know absolute power corrupts absolutely.
There is no reason for a Voter ID law, no less a constitutional amendment. It is not in the spirit of the Missouri or U.S. constitutions. It is not the will of the people.
David Rosman is a business and political communications consultant, professional speaker and college instructor in communications, ethics, business and politics. He welcomes your comments at ProfDave1011@netscape.net.