The Missouri legislature wants all voters to present government-issued photo identification at the polls. Sounds reasonable. Oh wait, they passed a bill like that in 2006 and it was struck down as unconstitutional by the Missouri Supreme Court because it would disenfranchise people. They are back again in 2011 – for the fifth time! – and this time they are going to change Missouri’s constitution.
Right now, state law allows voters to prove their identity with documents that do not contain photographs, such as copies of current utility bills, bank statements or paychecks listing their names and addresses, and with other forms of photo ID, like a student ID. Not good enough, apparently, because there are hordes of people who go to the polls on election day and pretend to be someone out. Voter fraud is everywhere!
Or not at all.
The kind of fraud that the bill claims to stop – someone impersonating a registered voter – just doesn’t happen in Missouri. Seriously, never. The Secretary of State says there has never been an instance of voter impersonation fraud in Missouri. And if it did happen, it is a felony that is punishable under existing law.
Could it be that the target is actually something else? Like the 250,000 registered voters in Missouri who don’t have a state-issued ID, like lots of students, seniors and poor people?
Under the “new” proposals, here is what you would need to show at the polls:
- a non-expired Missouri driver’s license;
- a non-expired or nonexpiring Missouri nondriver’s license;
- any identification containing a photograph issued by the Missouri National Guard, the United States armed forces, or the United States Department of Veterans Affairs; or
- a document issued by the United States or the state of Missouri containing the name of the voter which substantially conforms to the most recent signature in the individual’s voter registration records, a photograph, and an expiration date or if expired, the expiration is after the date of the most recent general election.
What’s not on the list? Any other form of ID, such as college IDs and out-of-state IDs, so many students and mobile residents be out of luck.
Just get a “free” ID, they say. We’ll there isn’t much free about having to go through an unnecessary and arduous process of acquiring one at the Department of Revenue in order to vote. That was the Missouri Supreme Court’s primary main concern when it struck down the photo ID law in 2006. Why’s that? Because Missouri citizens must provide ALL of the following documents to get a photo ID:
- Proof of Lawful Presence – e.g. certified birth certificate which can cost $5-$30 and takes up to 10 weeks to get;
- Proof of Lawful Identify – a Social Security card;
- Proof of Residency – a current utility bill or government check with address; and
- Proof of Name Change (if you have changed your name) – marriage licenses, divorce decrees, court orders, adoption papers, and amended birth certificates (all of which also come at a cost if they need to be reissued).
At a time when the state has a $700 million budget gap, this proposal would cost at least $21 million in new taxpayer money over the next three years. It also seems strange that during this period of high unemployment politicians would be more focused on gaming the system to keep their jobs instead of worrying about you and your job.
There is going to be a hearing on versions of this legislation in the state House of Representatives on Tuesday, February 8th (this Tuesday!) at 8:00 a.m. Are you going to be in Jefferson City on Tuesday? Want to testify against this unnecessary and costly suppression of voting rights? Let us know.