JEFFERSON CITY — The nationwide effort by Republican state legislatures to change voting laws in the name of election security took a step forward in Missouri last week.

The state House of Representatives passed a bill that would impose a number of changes to Missouri election law, including new photo identification requirements for voters.

The bill’s passage came on the same day that Republican lawmakers enacted similar legislation in Georgia, drawing a strong rebuke from President Joe Biden.

Policies requiring photo ID are widely condemned by voting rights advocates, who point to their disproportionate impact on the ability of racial minorities, low-income voters, people with disabilities, seniors and students to vote.

Proponents of voter ID cite instances of voter fraud as the justification for such laws. But reported instances of such abuse are rare.

The bill advanced to the Senate on a 109-48 vote, over the unanimous and vocal opposition of House Democrats.

Rep. Joe Adams, D-University City, invoked the legacy of the Jim Crow era, when Southern states imposed numerous barriers to the ballot box to prevent African Americans from voting, in warning Republicans against passing the bill.

“History is going to record that the Missouri legislature has voted to disenfranchise people,” Adams said.

Rep. Dan Shaul, R-Imperial, who chairs the House Committee on Elections and Elected Officials, likened the various security-focused provisions of the bill to performing “preventative maintenance” on a car.

“We’ve looked at things that could go wrong. We saw what happened in other cars or other states,” Shaul said. “And basically, we were issued some safety recalls.”

Another provision of the bill requires voters attempting to cast no-excuse absentee ballots to do so in person within three weeks prior to Election Day and to provide a valid photo ID.

The bill also prohibits any changes to election law in the six months leading up to a presidential election and blocks the counting of absentee ballots until after all Election Day ballots are counted, a policy that notoriously led to counting delays in some states in the 2020 election.

Adams called the bill an attempt “to fix a problem that does not exist.”

While Republican lawmakers have long supported stringent voter ID laws, several of the bill’s other components are a direct response to last November’s election and unsubstantiated claims of voter fraud that followed Biden’s victory over former President Donald Trump.

Since the COVID-19 pandemic prompted a spike in mail and early voting in the 2020 election, which saw the highest voter turnout since 1900, Republican lawmakers in 43 states have proposed laws that would in some way constrain access to the ballot.

For instance, the wide-ranging voting bill enacted in Georgia last week imposes new ID requirements for mail-in ballots and criminalizes third-party groups’ practice of providing food and water to voters standing in line, among other restrictions.

On Friday, Biden condemned the Georgia bill, calling it “Jim Crow in the 21st Century.”

  • State Government reporter, spring 2021. I am a first-year graduate student studying public policy journalism. You can reach me at mokwb@mail.missouri.edu, or in the newsroom at 882-5700.

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