JEFFERSON CITY — Gov. Jay Nixon vetoed legislation Friday that could have required voters to show photo identification and created an early-voting period in Missouri.
Nixon said he spiked the bill because it could have made voting harder for seniors and the disabled, whom Nixon said are less likely to have a driver's license or other government-issued photo ID card.
"It is unacceptable to impede or discourage citizens from voting who have lawfully cast ballots their entire adult lives," Nixon said in a veto message to lawmakers.
A proposed constitutional amendment on photo IDs and early voting is still set to appear on Missouri's 2012 ballot. But that measure only authorizes the separate enactment of state laws on the two topics; it does not require them.
Nixon had supported the early voting provision. But Missouri governors can only use a line-item veto on budget bills, meaning Nixon had to either accept both the early voting and photo ID provisions or reject the entire bill.
Republicans generally have backed the photo ID requirement while Democrats generally have supported the early voting period. Republican legislative leaders linked the two provisions this year in an effort to avoid a Senate filibuster and garner more support for the measure.
Nixon's veto is the second recent rejection of photo identification legislation in Missouri. In 2006, the state Supreme Court struck down a photo identification law signed by then-Gov. Matt Blunt, a Republican. The court ruled that the law infringed on the fundamental right to vote granted by the Missouri Constitution, taking particular issue with the cost of obtaining documents — such as a birth certificate or passport — needed to obtain a free state photo ID card.
Lawmakers this year referred the proposed constitutional amendment to the 2012 ballot in an attempt to get around the court's concerns.
Ultimately, Nixon's veto may not prohibit a photo ID requirement. Legislators could pass another version of the bill in future years. Or, if voters approve the constitutional amendment, state and local officials could attempt to enforce the 2006 law on the basis that the state Supreme Court's prior ruling was essentially overturned.