St. Louis lawyer Jay Ashcroft, a Republican running for Missouri secretary of state in 2016, has filed a proposed constitutional amendment to require voters to show a government-issued photo ID before casting a ballot.
But he’ll need time, help --and perhaps money -- to get the proposal before voters.
Ashcroft announced Thursday that he has filed a proposed initiative petition with the secretary of state’s office. The wording of his proposal must first be approved before it can be circulated.
Ashcroft also would need to collect close to 160,000 signatures from registered voters around the state, with a minimum number needed from voters in at least six of the state's eight congressional districts. He said he hoped to start gathering signatures later this summer.
Most initiative-petition proposals fail to collect enough signatures from the congressional districts to get on Missouri ballots. The signatures would need to be submitted by early May 2016 to get on the August or November ballot.
Ashcroft contended that a photo ID requirement would help guard against voter fraud. “We have seen, time and again, individuals seek to cheat the outcome of Missouri elections,” he said. “It is totally unacceptable, and I will be working to pursue a common sense voter ID requirement that will protect the vote of every eligible voter in our state.”
One reason many initiative-petition proposals fall short is because of the cost involved. Most initiative-petition drives cost more than $1 million, because firms often are hired to field the workers necessary to collect the signatures.
But Ashcroft said he has no plans to raise a lot of money for such an effort, and he doesn't believe it's needed. "It's going to be a grassroots effort,'' Ashcroft said, adding that he has talked to various candidates and groups who might help out.
"I can't do this alone,'' he said.
Some Republican officials and legislators have been advocating a photo ID requirement for years. Critics, including many Democrats, accuse the GOP of trying to prevent or discourage legitimate voters -- especially the poor, minorities and students -- from casting votes because they lean Democratic, and are least likely to have a drivers license or passport, the two primary sources of photo ID that would be allowe at the polls.
The Missouri General Assembly did approve a photo ID mandate in 2006, but it was tossed out by the Missouri Supreme Court. The state’s high court ruled that a constitutional amendment would be needed before a photo ID requirement could be put in place in Missouri.
Missouri legislators have yet to get a photo ID ballot proposal through the General Assembly. The latest proposal died in the General Assembly when it adjourned last Friday. The House passed such a proposal last winter, but the state Senate failed to act.
Ashcroft said he waited until the session was over before deciding to go the initiative-petition route.
Ashcroft is the son of former U.S. Attorney General John Ashcroft, a Republican who served as Missouri's governor from 1985-93 and as a U.S. senator from 1995-2001.