Missouri is poised to become the latest state in the nation to move towards requiring a photo ID at the polls. On Wednesday night, the state Senate voted 24-8 to approve a measure that will effectively let voters determine whether to require voter ID at the polls. It’s expected to pass the House today. Should it do so, Republican lawmakers say they have enough votes to override a veto by Democratic Gov. Jay Nixon. Missouri lawmakers have tried to pass a voter ID law for 10 years, arguing that it is necessary to prevent voter fraud. In 2006, the state’s Supreme Court declared a previous voter ID law unconstitutional. The bill is paired with a separate measure that, if approved by voters this fall, would amend the state constitution to allow for a photo ID requirement at the polls. Missouri’s initiative comes as voters in 10 other states will face stricter ID requirements for the first time in a presidential election. In April, a federal court upheld a law in North Carolina requiring voter ID at the polls, although civil-rights groups said they will appeal the ruling. A few days later, the U.S. Supreme Court allowed a similar law in Texas to remain in place while the case is argued before a federal appeals court.
Voter ID laws are controversial because they are deeply partisan. They are sponsored and passed overwhelmingly by Republicans, who say they want to prevent even isolated cases of voter fraud. They are opposed by Democrats who say that the laws suppress turnout among disadvantaged groups, particularly blacks and Latinos, low-income voters and the elderly — who also are more likely to vote for Democrats.
There hasn’t yet been a conclusive study to show whether such laws suppress voting, but a 2014 evaluation by the Government Accountability Office of voter ID laws in Tennessee and Kansas found that overall turnout dropped by a few percentage points. A 2016 study by researchers at the University of California in San Diego found that ID laws in 10 states, including Texas, Mississippi and Ohio, have led to “substantial drops” in minority turnout. For example in primaries, the study found that a strict ID law could depress Latino turnout by 9.3 points, black turnout by 8.6 points and Asian-American turnout by 12.5 points.