Missouri House rewrites voter ID ballot summary

Wednesday, April 11, 2012 | 9:33 p.m. CDT

JEFFERSON CITY — The Missouri House of Representatives approved a new ballot summary Wednesday for a proposed constitutional amendment that would clear the way for a requirement that voters show photo identification.

The move marked the second attempt by House members to write the summary, which would appear before voters as they decide on the voter ID proposal.

The measure calling for the amendment cleared the Missouri General Assembly last year, and lawmakers are working to put it on the ballot this year. The proposal would amend the Missouri Constitution to allow a state law requiring voters to show government-issued photo identification at the polls and to permit an advanced voting period. Last month, Cole County Circuit Judge Pat Joyce rejected the ballot summary that lawmakers approved for the proposal, calling it insufficient. But Joyce ruled that lawmakers could revise the ballot summary.

House members approved the revised summary 102-55, and it now goes to the state Senate. Some have questioned whether the legislature can use a resolution to change the ballot summary for a proposal that passed the legislature in the preceding year.

In the original summary, there was a reference to the "Voter Protection Act," which never appears in the actual text of the proposed constitutional amendment. The new version approved by the House would say: "Shall the Missouri Constitution be amended to create standards for enacting general laws that authorize advance voting, require the use of government-issued photo identification in order to vote, and govern voting procedures based on whether an individual is voting in person or by absentee ballot?"

Much of the House debate Wednesday focused on the wisdom of requiring voters to show a photo ID. Ultimately, the changes were approved along party lines.

House Speaker Pro Tem Shane Schoeller, who sponsored the resolution to edit the ballot language, said he wants voters to decide whether to implement a photo ID requirement. He is running for secretary of state this year and has sponsored other measures related to photo ID requirements for voters.

"Missourians agree overwhelmingly that requiring voters to provide a photo identification to receive a ballot is a common-sense measure that protects their voting identity," said Schoeller, R-Willard.

Rep. Stacey Newman, a frequent critic of requiring photo IDs to be shown at the polls, said lawmakers were wasting money by repeatedly trying to pass the requirement. Newman, D-St. Louis, called it a "fraudulent attempt to continue to suppress voters based upon a fraudulent argument that there is voter fraud."

Missouri lawmakers have considered photo ID requirements for voters in recent years. Last year, the legislature passed both the proposed constitutional amendment and separate legislation that would have enacted the photo ID requirement and an early voting period. Democratic Gov. Jay Nixon vetoed the separate legislation.

Lawmakers in 2006 also passed a law creating a photo ID requirement that was signed by Republican then-Gov. Matt Blunt. However, the Missouri Supreme Court concluded the law violated the fundamental right to vote and struck it down.

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