Republicans in the Missouri General Assembly are mounting a two-pronged effort to make voting more difficult for certain citizens, who are most likely to be elderly, low-income, students or minorities. They’re not even subtle about it. On one front, the annual effort to require voters to produce government-issued photo identification at the polls is moving quickly. If the Senate votes in favor, a resolution seeking a constitutional amendment requiring photo identification will be headed for the November ballot. A separate effort, endorsed Wednesday by the House, is a pre-emptive strike against a citizen-initiated ballot proposal to finally get early voting in Missouri. In a show of pettiness, the House budget even deletes $79,900 in funding for a special unit of the secretary of state’s office that investigates allegations of election improprieties. The elections integrity unit is a more effective and less expensive way to ensure that elections work well than a cumbersome voter ID law. Created by Secretary of State Jason Kander, it follows up on complaints and suspected problems. The intent is not only to look out for the slim prospect that an ineligible citizen may try to cast a ballot, but to make sure that the process of voting works well for citizens who are eligible.
Rep. John Diehl, the House majority leader, proposed stripping $79,900 intended to hire two new election fraud investigators. If the unit is that important, an office with 271 full-time employees can keep it running, Diehl noted.
He’s got a point. But Diehl’s logic falls apart when he advocates for the photo ID law approved by the House.
Analysts estimate that carrying out such a requirement could cost the state as much as $6.4 million next year. The state would incur the expenses of processing free driver’s licenses and official non-driver ID cards for people who sign an affidavit that they need the documentation to vote. The secretary of state’s office would need to send out mailings and air public service announcements telling people of the new requirements.