For at least 10 years, the Republican-dominated Missouri Legislature has been trying to pass a law requiring voters to present photo identification before casting ballots. They actually succeeded in 2006, but the state Supreme Court threw out the voter ID law before it could take effect. The issue is back again this year, having passed the House only to run into a series of Democratic filibusters in the Senate. The eight Senate Democrats should stand firm. Senate Republicans should be honest: House Bill 1631 basically solves a problem that doesn’t exist — voter impersonation fraud — and would have a disproportionate effect on minority voters. Higher courts may well declare it unconstitutional. That being the case, the Senate’s Republican leaders must decide if they want to take the extreme step of shutting down debate to pass an unnecessary, punitive and highly partisan law that would deny some 200,000 Missourians their right to take part in the democratic process.
In the long run, if it’s not declared unconstitutional, it might give future GOP candidates an edge at the polls; it wouldn’t take effect until after the November 2016 election because voters first have to pass a companion measure changing the state Constitution’s election laws.
In the short run, it will sabotage everything else the Senate wants to do before the end of the session May 13. Democrats have promised to filibuster everything else on the agenda if GOP leaders close down debate on the voter ID bill. It’s not a bluff; Democrats ran out the clock in the Senate last year after Republicans closed down their filibuster and passed a right-to-work bill that Gov. Jay Nixon quickly vetoed.