Photo ID does not combat voter fraud

Friday, May 18, 2007 | 12:00 a.m. CDT; updated 5:59 a.m. CDT, Tuesday, July 22, 2008

In his May 16 column “Photo IDs could end voter fraud,” J. Karl Miller cites as “evidence” of widespread voter fraud in Missouri claims that have been so thoroughly debunked that there is no need to do so here. But one assertion begs rebuttal.

The Republican-controlled General Assembly in 2006 forced through a law requiring Missourians to show a photo ID at the polls as a condition of voting. The Missouri Supreme Court struck it down months later in Weinschenck v. Missouri. Mr. Miller’s analysis of the case: “Illogically, the Missouri Supreme Court sided with the opposition in declaring the law unconstitutional, citing that it imposed an undue hardship on minorities, women, the poor and the elderly.”

While it would have imposed a hardship on these voters, the court invalidated the law because it violated Article VIII, Section 2 of Missouri Constitution, which unequivocally guarantees voting rights for all U.S. citizens age 18 or older who are Missouri residents and registered to vote. In other words, the court said that if you are legally registered to vote, you get to vote, and the legislature may not impose additional restrictions on voting rights not authorized by the constitution.

Contrary to the claims of photo ID proponents, such a requirement would do nothing to combat election fraud. Photo ID could only address voter impersonation at the polls, which the evidence proved hasn’t happened in Missouri. As the court said in its opinion: “The Photo-ID Requirement could only prevent a particular type of voter fraud that the record does not show is occurring in Missouri, yet it would place a heavy burden on the free exercise of the franchise for many citizens of this state.”

It was in no way “illogical” for the Missouri Supreme Court to follow the plain language of the state constitution and overturn an unconstitutionally restrictive law that sought to solve a nonexistent problem.

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