A close friend of mine is one of the great advocates for disability rights in Columbia — perhaps all of Boone County. She recently started a discussion on Facebook concerning Missouri’s Senate Bill 3, the voter identification bill, which now sits on the governor’s desk for signature or veto.
My friend wrote that she might have to sue the state of Missouri because the bill could disenfranchise up to 300,000 Missourians. I praise her fortitude. Not many are willing to stand up for the disabled and poor.
She continued that the law says in order to get a birth certificate, citizens need to prove who they are. If your name has changed because of marriage or divorce,you must show proof in the form of a marriage certificate or divorce decree. This discriminates against women. My antenna started to vibrate.
Looking for clarification, I contacted Trevor Fox, the director of the Missouri House of Representatives’ Office of Communication; the public relations office at the Missouri Department of Health and Senior Services, which issues certified copies of valid birth certificates; the Secretary of State’s office; and Boone County Clerk Wendy Noren.
Even the brightest are sometimes subject to the rumor mill and the misinformation that flows in the wake of emotion. I compare the exponential growth of a rumor with the children’s game “telephone.” I might whisper in the first person’s ear, “I twisted my ankle.” That person passes on the information to the next, and the process continues. By the time the message returns to me, I am in a full-body cast because of a driving accident … in New York City. How does this happen?
The communication theories are pretty simple. First, one person in the information chain might have erroneously changed a word. The error continues and is magnified with passage of the message.
Second, people need to justify what has happened. “David is a very graceful guy. He would not have just tripped — something else must have happened.” That person might pass on the story, speculating that “David might have tripped on the steps to his carport.” After a while, “might” becomes “must,” and that becomes “fact.” Others add their speculation to the story as it progresses. Eventually, the legend becomes that I was driving to New York City to give a talk, was broadsided by a semi and am now in a hospital in a full-body cast. I must have been broadsided because “David is a defensive driver.”
Back to SB-3. Here are the essential facts, which might be contradictory to a few of the "telephone" rumors you may have heard:
Fact: According to the DHSS website, a marriage license is not required for women or men to receive a certified copy of a birth certificate. You do need to present government-issued photo identification or have two other forms of identification stating your name and the name of the company or organization issuing the I.D., along with $15.
Fact: Nothing in SB-3 suggests requiring a marriage certificate as valid identification for the purpose of voting.
Fact: SB-3 allows voters who lack a valid photo I.D. to cast provisional ballots. If identity cannot be validated at the polling location, the voter is allowed to cast a provisional ballot but must bring some form of identification to the voting authority within three days.
Fact: To change your name on a Missouri driver’s license or identification, you do need proof of the change, e.g. your marriage license, divorce decree or court order. If I were to change my name to my grandfather’s original spelling, Roizemann, I would also have to provide proper proof for a new driver’s license.
I believe that my friend was caught up in the moment, as many of us have been and will be. We have all passed on information before verification, myself included. Most do not go into a tirade when they are shown evidence that they were mistaken. A minority do.
Is SB-3 discriminatory? I believe it is and will disenfranchise voters who are physically disabled, do not drive, do not hold a photo I.D. because of religious reasons or cannot afford to pay for an I.D. Gov. Nixon needs to veto SB-3 — the sooner, the better.
David Rosman is an award-winning editor, writer, professional speaker and college instructor in communications, ethics, business and politics. More of David’s commentaries are available at InkandVoice.com and New York Journal of Books.