JEFFERSON CITY — Missouri House Republicans are trying again to enact legislation that would require voters to show photo identification before casting ballots, and they're hoping the courts or the Democratic governor don't stand in the way this time.
The House gave first-round approval to measures Tuesday that could lead to a voter photo ID requirement. Previous attempts have stalled in the Senate, been vetoed by Gov. Jay Nixon or blocked by judges.
As they have in the past, Republican supporters argued Tuesday that a photo ID requirement would protect the integrity of elections and prevent fraud at the ballot box.
"Unfortunately it is a reality in life and in modern America that there is voter fraud," said one of the measure's sponsors, Rep. Stanley Cox, R-Sedalia.
But Democratic House members argued there isn't evidence of massive fraud occurring at the state's polling places. They denounced the legislation as discriminatory and an attempt to disenfranchise voters who are more likely to support Democrats.
"We are going to make war on fundamental voting rights for 220,000 Missourians, for poor people, and for black people so you can entertain a fantasy," Rep. Chris Kelly, D-Columbia, told House Republicans.
Secretary of State Jason Kander, a Democrat, has estimated that 220,000 people wouldn't be able to vote if the photo identification requirement is adopted.
One of the legislation's sponsors, Rep. Tony Dugger, R-Hartville, said the bill has safeguards that would prevent people from not being able to vote.
The measure would let people obtain a government-issued ID free of charge. Voters who can't afford an ID and those born before 1941 could cast provisional ballots. The signature on the provisional ballot would have to match the signature on the voter's registration in order for the ballot to be counted.
Legislative staff estimate those provisions would cost about $6.5 million in the next state budget year.
Missouri Republicans have been trying for years to enact a photo ID requirement.
A 2006 voter ID law was struck down by the Missouri Supreme Court as unconstitutional. Because of that ruling, lawmakers must now pass both a state constitutional amendment authorizing the requirement and a separate bill detailing how the law would work.
The two-pronged approach was passed by the Legislature in 2011. But Democratic Gov. Jay Nixon vetoed the bill to implement voter photo ID and a judge struck down the ballot summary for the proposed constitutional amendment, so it never went before voters. The House passed voter ID legislation last year, but it was never taken up in the Senate.
On Tuesday, the House endorsed both a constitutional amendment and a voter photo ID bill. Those measures need one more vote before moving to the Senate. A Senate committee has held hearings on similar legislation but hasn't taken a vote.