The Missouri House has given first-round approval to legislation that would require voters to show photo identification at the polls.
Democrats and Republicans remain deeply divided over the issue: The 104-54 vote split along party lines, with every Republican present voting “yes,” and every Democrat “no.” Supporters argued that the bill would help prevent voter fraud. But State Representative Leonard Hughes (D, Kansas City) countered that the bill is unnecessary.
“Someone is more likely to be struck by lightning than to perform voter fraud in this state of Missouri or in America, for that fact," Hughes said. "Are we starting our own fires so we can put them out and look like heroes? Is that the job of government now? Is that what we’re supposed to be doing?”
Democrats argue that the bill could disenfranchise more than 200,000 Missourians, primarily minorities, the poor, elderly, and disabled. The sponsor, Speaker Pro-tem Shane Schoeller (R, Willard), said the bill would not disenfranchise anyone, and would safeguard elections against voter fraud.
“If you bring your bank statement in, if you bring your utility bill in, or someone brings in a bank statement or utility bill, does that verify who your identity is? No," Schoeller said. "It’s just a name on a statement…you don’t have absolute certainty that person is who they say they are.”
Schoeller is also seeking the GOP nomination for Missouri Secretary of State.
The Missouri Supreme Court ruled that a 2006 photo ID law was unconstitutional.
Legislators last year approved a constitutional amendment designed to require a photo ID and then passed separate legislation to implement the requirement. That legislation was vetoed by Governor Jay Nixon (D).