The nationwide fight over voter ID laws is heading next to the Show Me State. Missouri Republicans are working to amend their state’s constitution as part of an aggressive push to require photo identification at the polls. The GOP-controlled legislature held a hearing Monday on two voter ID bills. One would place a proposed constitutional amendment on the ballot this November, which, if approved by voters, would allow for a voter ID law. The second bill, to go into effect only if the amendment passes, would impose voter ID. The two-pronged approach is needed because of a 2006 state Supreme Court ruling which found that voter ID laws violate the state constitution’s guarantee of a right to vote. A Pennsylvania judge this month struck down that state’s ID law on similar grounds.
National Republicans have pulled out the stops lately to clear a path for voter ID laws—a sign of the tactic’s growing importance to the party’s long-term strategy amid adverse demographic trends. Recent legislation in Congress to strengthen the Voting Rights Act went easy on voter ID, in order to win GOP support. And a bipartisan presidential commission on voting avoided the entire subject in order to achieve consensus.
Nor are Missouri Republicans the only ones looking to change their state’s constitution in order to enact voter ID. Tea Party activists in California recently launched an effort to get a proposed constitutional amendment requiring voter ID on their state’s ballot this November.
In Missouri, the constitutional amendment would appear to have a decent shot at the polls, especially in a low turnout midterm election with no high-profile races on the ballot, a scenario that tends to favor Republicans and conservative causes. Despite the controversy over voter ID, it generally polls well, likely because most people overestimate the prevalence of in-person fraud and underestimate the number of people who lack ID.