Gov. Mike Parson signed HB 1878 into law Wednesday, putting a photo identification requirement into place for the Nov. 8 general election.
Boone County Clerk Brianna Lennon said the law will not take effect until Aug. 28. Voters who cast their ballots at a polling location or in-person absentee in the Aug. 2 primary election will not be required to present a photo ID.
HB 1878 also authorizes the secretary of state to audit voter rolls quarterly and require local election authorities to remove “improper names.” It also mandates paper ballots starting Jan. 1, 2023, though election authorities may continue to use touchscreen voting machines until 2024.
Voters can present “any form of photo identification” issued by the state or federal government to vote under the new law, Lennon said. This includes nonexpired driver’s and nondriver’s licenses. The state is also required under the law to give a photo ID card to voters who don’t have one for free.
Lennon said the law does not require a person to present a photo ID to register to vote; nonphoto forms of ID like birth certificates are permitted.
Voters who show up to vote in person without a valid photo ID can cast a provisional ballot, Lennon said. Election officials will then compare the signature to the signature a voter had on file when they registered to vote. The voter may also return to the polling location after casting the provisional ballot and present a valid form of photo ID.
In a news release, Secretary of State Jay Ashcroft said HB 1878 makes Missouri “a national leader on election administration” because it protects the integrity of elections.
“Missouri voters are passionate about their right to vote,” Ashcroft said in the release. “This bill makes Missouri elections safer and more transparent, which instills confidence and trust.”
MU political science professor Peverill Squire said the law would have “practically no impact whatsoever” on election security. He said it is “a misguided notion” that there is much fraud in Missouri because very few people have tried to vote with false identification.
When the Missouri House of Representatives debated HB 1878, some Democratic lawmakers raised concerns that the photo ID provisions could make voting more difficult for Black and elderly voters.
Squire said these groups, along with low-income voters, could face a barrier to voting. However, he said he thought the bill would depress voter turnout less than Democrats may expect.
“For the most part, the impact of these sorts of laws, as we’ve seen across the country, is that they don’t have as big an impact as either their supporters hope or their opponents fear,” Squire said.
Photo ID laws have run into trouble with the state Supreme Court in the past.
In 2020, the state high court struck down a 2016 voter identification law because it required voters without a photo ID to sign a “contradictory” and “misleading” affidavit. The voter had to present a valid form of ID without a photo, but the affidavit required the voter to swear that they did not have a “form of personal identification approved for voting.”
Squire said HB 1878 “may be taken to court” but said it wasn’t clear how the courts would rule on its provisions.