St. Louis voters will be among the first to go to the polls under a new statewide photo-identification voting law, during a special election for an aldermanic seat in July. But Missouri’s top election official is acknowledging the state won’t be ready to provide free IDs to all in that election who may need them. “We won’t get free IDs to everyone who wants them before the St. Louis city special election,” Missouri Secretary of State Jay Ashcroft, a top Republican proponent of the controversial new law, said in an interview Wednesday. Still, he batted back what he alleged is a campaign by the law’s opponents to discredit it, and he insisted that backup provisions in the law would allow every eligible voter to vote even if they don’t have IDs. “People are misleading the voters of the state about what this law said,” Ashcroft said, “and I think that’s despicable.”
There are similarly heated emotions on the other side of the issue. Activists and elected officials decried the new law Wednesday, the day before it officially goes into effect, alleging it was designed to make it more difficult for Democratic-leaning constituencies to vote.
“When my ancestors, who were slaves in this country, first won the right to vote, the reaction was to pass Jim Crow laws to keep us from voting — things like literacy tests and poll taxes,” said St. Louis Treasurer Tishaura Jones. “Voter ID is another poll tax.”