Missouri’s Republican-controlled House has again approved legislation to require voters to show photo identification at the polls. The House on Thursday advanced the photo-based ID effort with its approval of companion legislation — a bill setting up the framework for voter ID and a related constitutional amendment. The amendment would have to be approved by the state Senate and by voters in the November 2014 statewide election before the stricter identification requirements would become law. “This is a pretty common-sense proposal,” said House Speaker Tim Jones, R-Eureka. “It protects the integrity of the voting process.” It remains to be seen how the effort — which has become a yearly issue in the House — will fare in the GOP-controlled Senate this year.
Already, Missouri requires voters to show some form of nonphoto identification, such as a utility bill or a voter registration card. But proponents of the photo-based effort say that makes the state vulnerable to voter fraud that can affect elections.
“I think it is too easy for someone to pick up someone’s utility bill or even someone’s voter ID card and go to the polls and use that to cast a ballot,” said Rep. Tony Duggar, R-Hartville.
Nationally, the push to require photo identification has been picking up steam, but Missouri’s state constitution places a higher emphasis on the right to vote.
The state Supreme Court struck down a 2006 photo ID law as unconstitutional before it went into effect. This time, lawmakers hope to avoid that problem by changing the constitution.
But critics of the measure say the photo requirement is unnecessary and will create an additional burden that falls disproportionately onto older, poor and minority voters — groups that tend to sway Democratic.
Democrats have noted that there have been no documented cases of fraud in Missouri that could have been prevented through a photo requirement.
Rep. Rory Ellinger, D-University City, said the state shouldn’t be creating more bureaucratic hurdles for people who want to vote.
“The end result is innocent people will be hurt,” he said.
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