Missouri House to Debate Voter Identification Bill

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JEFFERSON CITY - The Missouri House of Representatives will debate Wednesday about a bill that aims to require photo identification at all polling places in the state.

2013 is the seventh consecutive year the Missouri House has debated a voter identification bill, but Rep. Casey Guernsey (R-Bethany) said he expects the bill to pass this time. The House passed a similar bill in 2006, but the Missouri Supreme Court struck it down, calling the photo requirement "an unconstitutional infringement on the fundamental right to vote."

Guernsey said the requirement would help prevent voter fraud and increase confidence in Missouri elections.

"Whether people choose to believe it or not, there is fraud and manipulation," Guernsey said. "And we've certainly seen it in Missouri in the past and we've seen it around the country and there's not enough we can do to protect that fundamental right."

Rep. Stacey Newman (D-St. Louis County) said photo identification requirements would disenfranchise thousands of longtime voters. Newman said Missouri residents who do not drive, are poor, or are minorities may lose their right to vote with this legislation because they do not have state-issued photo identification.

"We've got people who don't drive or no longer drive, in terms of the elderly, minorities, or even college students don't have a state voter ID," Newman said.

Guernsey said he does not believe this bill would take any Missouri resident's right to vote. He said photo requirements are already used for many routine processes.

"What can you do of any value anymore without a photo ID?" Guernsey said. "We require it to open a bank account, I mean there's so many things we require a photo ID for."

Newman said she does not believe the legislature should be able to amend voting rights.

"We have politicians now who are deciding who should vote and who shouldn't," Newman said. "What we should be having is voters electing their leaders, not the other way around."

If the bill passes in the House, Missouri voters would choose whether or not to amend the state constitution on the November 2014 ballot.