Missouri voter ID bill opposed by speakers at committee meeting

Tuesday, January 29, 2013 | 8:04 p.m. CST

JEFFERSON CITY — The House Committee on Elections convened for three hours Tuesday and heard testimony against legislation that would establish a photo identification requirement for Missouri voters.

Not a single person who testified at the hearing supported the idea.

The Missouri Supreme Court struck down a similar law in 2006, ruling that it was an unconstitutional infringement on voters' rights. One of the two pieces of legislation discussed on Tuesday was a joint resolution that would circumvent that ruling by enshrining in the Missouri Constitution the legislature's right to pass such bills. Missouri voters, however, would have to approve that constitutional amendment. The other bill would actually establish the ID requirement.

Both bills were filed by Rep. Tony Dugger, R-Hartville, who said his goal is to eliminate the potential for voter fraud.

The vast majority of witnesses against the bill and resolution spoke about the potential disenfranchisement of voters if the legislation is passed. Most animated in her opposition to the bills was Denise Lieberman, a senior attorney in the Voter Protection Program of the Advancement Project.

“It will relegate hundreds of thousands of Missourians to second-class citizens,” Lieberman told the committee, citing an estimate from the Secretary of State’s Office that 250,000 Missourians lack photo identification.

Dugger’s bill, however, includes provisions that he believes would prevent any disenfranchisement. Voters meeting any of the four criteria in the bill would be able to cast a provisional ballot without photo ID. Their signature on the ballot would then be compared against the signature on their voter registration form.

Those criteria are:

  • Being born before 1941.
  • Having a mental or physical disability.
  • Having religious beliefs prohibiting one from obtaining a photo ID.
  • The inability to pay for original documentation necessary to obtain a photo ID.

Questions arose – and remained largely unanswered – about the percentage of provisional ballots that were counted by county clerks relative to regular ballots. Provisional ballots are those that because of an irregularity must be checked before they're counted.

Other witnesses opposing the bill included a representative of Secretary of State Jason Kander, a lobbyist for a Missouri branch of the American Civil Liberties Union and the secretary-treasurer of the Missouri AFL-CIO.

The committee chair, Rep. Sue Entlicher, R-Bolivar, said that the earliest the committee will vote on the bill would be next Tuesday, when the committee meets again. 

Supervising editor is Scott Swafford.

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