JEFFERSON CITY — Republican Missouri secretary of state candidate Shane Schoeller got a boost Wednesday from a fellow Republican from Mississippi, who said photo identification requirements for voters are important to preserving the integrity of elections.
Schoeller has made implementing a Missouri photo ID requirement a central theme of his campaign. On Wednesday, Delbert Hosemann, Mississippi's secretary of state, echoed Shoeller's push.
"Sometimes a utility bill is not enough," Hosemann said while campaigning for Schoeller.
In 2011, Mississippi voters approved a state constitutional amendment dealing with a voter photo ID requirement, and legislators passed a measure earlier this year to put the requirement into law. However, the state is among those that need federal approval before making election changes, and the photo ID requirement will not be in place this year.
Currently Missouri voters can show a driver's license or other government-issued photo ID, but state law also allows them to provide documents that do not contain photographs, such as copies of utility bills or bank statements listing their names and addresses. Debates have persisted for years about whether to require a government-issued photo ID for voting. The Republican-led legislature has pushed for the requirement, and the Democratic-led secretary of state's office has opposed it.
Proponents of voter ID laws say they are an extra layer of protection against voter fraud, though opponents argue that they are designed to suppress voter turnout.
Schoeller, a state lawmaker from Willard, rejected concerns from critics about the fairness of a photo ID requirement. He said photo IDs are needed in everyday life for tasks such as for renting videos or boarding airplanes.
"I don't think when anybody asks you at the bank for a photo ID you look at the person across the way, and you say: 'That's extreme, that's unfair,'" Schoeller said. "Normally, I thank them because I know they're trying to protect my hard-earned dollars. Now, I want to make sure we protect your vote."
Jason Kander, the Democratic candidate for secretary of state, said Missouri's recent photo ID proposals have been "extreme and unfair." As an alternative, he has pointed to an Idaho policy that allows voters who do not bring a required photo ID to sign a sworn affidavit and then cast a standard ballot.
Kander, a state lawmaker from Kansas City, said efforts to help Missouri businesses expand should be the priority and pledged to help link business owners to existing resources that can help them succeed.
Campaigning in Fulton on Tuesday, Kander criticized legislation sponsored this year by Schoeller that deals with absentee voting. Kander said the measure would have restricted absentee ballots from being cast by mail and made it harder for those in the military to vote. He said he would not allow Schoeller to "take away the rights that they're risking their lives for."
Schoeller called the criticism ridiculous and suggested Kander was trying to create a political issue.
The secretary of state's race is the only statewide contest in Missouri that does not feature an incumbent seeking re-election. Democratic Secretary of State Robin Carnahan announced last fall that she would not seek a third term.