If you drive a car or buy alcohol, you probably need a photo ID. So shouldn’t you have one to vote? It depends on whom you ask. Partisan divisions are clear as the Missouri Senate takes up a proposal to require photo ID at the polls. The bill passed out of the GOP-dominated House in January on a party-line vote. While Republicans say requiring photo identification is necessary to ensure integrity at the ballot box, Democrats characterize the proposals as an attack on minorities, students and poor people — voters less likely to have a valid ID and more likely to support Democrats. The Missouri Secretary of State’s office estimates that 225,000 registered voters in the state lack a photo ID.
Strict photo voter ID bills are popular in GOP-controlled states. A new study out of the University of California, San Diego suggests that the strictest voter ID laws can reduce participation of strong liberals by up to 10.7 points compared with states without the laws. (Participation among strong conservatives also drops, but only by 2.8 points, the researchers found.)
Courts rulings on voter photo ID laws have been mixed. A photo voter ID bill was signed into law in Missouri in 2006 by then-Gov. Matt Blunt, a Republican, but the state Supreme Court struck it down, saying it represented a “heavy and substantial” burden on voters. Laws in Pennsylvania and Arkansas have also been struck down by state courts.