As a candidate, Missouri Gov. Jay Nixon denounced a proposed photo identification requirement for voters as an “onerous requirement.”
Now that he is governor, Nixon will have to decide whether to follow through with his earlier convictions and veto legislation that would implement a photo identification requirement. The catch is that the measure is paired with a provision allowing an early voting period before elections — a proposal that Nixon supports.
The politically sticky situation for Nixon is the result of some maneuvering by Republican legislative leaders who for years have sought to implement a photo ID requirement for voters but had resisted efforts to allow a period during which people can cast ballots — with no absentee excuse needed — before the official election day.
This year, lawmakers passed a pair of measures on the subject. They referred a proposed constitutional amendment to the 2012 ballot that, if approved by voters, would authorize both a photo ID mandate and an early voting period. They also passed a bill, which is pending before Nixon, to place specific details on both prongs of the voting law changes into state statute.
Although Nixon can’t affect the proposed constitutional amendment, he could veto the corresponding legislation — effectively preventing the law from taking effect if voters chose to amend the state constitution.
Nixon declined to say Friday whether he will sign or veto the legislation. But he has indicated in the past that he doesn’t like a photo ID requirement for voters.
While a candidate for governor in May 2008, Nixon told The Associated Press that he considered a proposed photo ID mandate to be an “onerous requirement” that would make it harder for Missourians to vote. He also issued a written statement at the time saying that “as elected leaders, we should work to increase voting and participation in the democratic process, not create new unnecessary roadblocks.”
Asked Friday if he still stands by this campaign comments, Nixon replied: “I said what I said. Obviously, we’re always trying to work to make voting as easy and efficient for people as possible. It’s an important part of democracy.”
Nixon did reiterate his support for the early voting period.
Although Missouri governors can use a line-item veto on budget bills, they do not have the authority to veto only part of a regular piece of legislation. That means Nixon must either accept both the early voting and voter ID provisions, or reject them both.
State Rep. Sara Lampe, of Springfield, is among many of Nixon’s fellow Democrats who would prefer he spike the legislation.
“”I think the voter ID is just too big of a problem to let early voting win out,” Lampe said.
Democrats contend that requiring government-issued photo identification could discourage or prevent some people from voting.