JEFFERSON CITY — Republican House members gave initial approval to a bill Monday that would require voters to present photo identification, continuing an almost two-decadeslong effort by conservative lawmakers to toughen voting laws.
The new proposal comes a year after the Missouri Supreme Court permanently barred a central provision of a 2016 law that required voters who couldn’t produce photo ID to sign an affidavit that could subject them to perjury charges.
House Bill 334 — carried by Rep. John Simmons, R-Washington — would resurrect that familiar measure, minus the component that the high court found objectionable.
The new proposal would once again add steps for voters who do not have photo IDs with them at polling places. Those voters would have to cast a provisional ballot with the promise that they would come back with a photo ID before the end of the day, unless election officials can match their signatures with previous documents.
Proponents of the bill have touted the measure as a way to tamp down on voter fraud, which studies have shown is very rare.
Democrats have historically opposed voter photo ID proposals that they say disenfranchise the voting rights of low-income residents and other disadvantaged groups such as trans and nonbinary people, whose ID’s may not match their gender identity.
During debate, lawmakers voted down an amendment that would have let Missourians continue to use COVID-19 as a reason to not vote in person through the end of the year.
“If you believed that this was good policy then, then the simple question is, is it good policy now since COVID is still a thing?” asked Rep. Peter Merideth, D-St. Louis.
Part of the debate Monday centered on how prevalent voter fraud really is.
State Rep. Cheri Toalson-Reisch, R-Hallsville, argued that voter rolls are rife with inconsistencies.
“I have been fighting dead people on the roles in Boone County for 40 years,” Reisch said. “And if anybody on this forum wants to know how I found dead people for 40 years, come see me and I’ll show you how to do it.”
When another lawmaker asked for specific instances in which ballots were cast in the names of those dead people, Reisch could not provide any.
The bill requires one more vote of House members and then will go to the state Senate.