State lawmaker takes another stab at Voter ID

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JEFFERSON CITY - A week after the Supreme Court of Missouri upheld that part of the voter ID law which took effect in 2017 is unconstitutional, state lawmakers are already taking another swing at it.

Today, members of the House Elections and Election Officials committee heard testimony on House Bill 1600, which modifies several election provisions. It would give the Secretary of State's office the power to subpoena for investigations and repeals an affidavit requirement.

In 2018, Judge Richard Callahan ruled the affidavit requirement is reasonable, but the affidavit provided by the state was "contradictory and misleading." He prohibited use of the affidavit and other materials suggesting photographic identification is required for voting. He said the affidavit requirement infringed on a citizen’s right to vote under the state constitution.

In its ruling last week, the Missouri Supreme Court upheld Callahan's ruling, saying the affidavit requirement is unconstitutional and the circuit court didn't act improperly in barring the state from disseminating materials indicating photo ID is needed to vote.

The new bill would allow "voters without personal identification at a polling place to vote a provisional ballot which will be counted" as long as the voter returns with proper documentation for election officials.

Under the bill filed by Rep. John Simmons, R-Washington, voters will need to provide personal identification in order to cast a ballot: 

  • A Missouri driver or non-driver license, passport or military I.D.
  • A signed affidavit that states the vote will not be counted unless the voter returns with an ID from Option 1.

Missouri Secretary of State Jay Ashcroft was at the hearing Tuesday morning to testify in favor of the bill. Ashcroft said he did not want to change the Voter ID bill right after it was first struck down in 2018 because he did not want to confuse people.

"We have had a supreme court decision and people are saying what does this mean, how does this change things," he said. "I'd like to take the opportunity to make this bill as clean as possible while still making sure that every person who is registered to vote in the state of Missouri knows that they will be allowed to vote if they show up to their polling place on election day. I think beyond everything else, we ought to all be able to agree on this."

A number of groups including the Missouri Voter Protection Coalition and the NAACP testified against the bill.

"We want to ensure a robust democracy that is free, fair, and accessible to all," said Washington University in St. Louis law professor Denise Lieberman. "But we can only do that if all voters are able to access the ballot and stripping out the non-photo I.D. provisions like this law does will leave people out."

Lieberman said she takes issue with Ashcroft's assessment that everyone can vote.

"Under the provision, if you don't have a state issued I.D., you would have to cast a provisional ballot," she said.

Lieberman said according to the Secretary of State's own analysis, 279,000 registered Missouri voters either don't have a state issued I.D. or an expired one. For his part, Ashcroft said his office is more than happy to help voters obtain a state-issued I.D. for free.