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Government, Politics & Issues

Missouri House committee passes photo ID bills

A voter enters Our Lady of Guadalupe School on election day in Ferguson.
Bill Greenblatt | UPI | File photo

Two companion measures that would require Missouri voters to show photo identification at the polls have been passed by a House committee.

The first one, HJR 53, is a proposed constitutional amendment that would allow for a photo ID requirement, and would need to first be passed by Missouri voters.

The other, HB 1631, is a bill that would implement the details of the photo ID requirement. They include limiting acceptable forms of identification to the following:

  • A non-expired Missouri driver's license
  • A non-expired state ID card
  • Any non-expired document issued by the U.S. government or the state of Missouri that contains the name and photograph of the individual, i.e., a passport or armed services ID

Anyone who shows up at the polls without one of the above forms of photo identification would have to use a provisional ballot to vote, which would not be counted unless that voter returns with a photo ID within three days of the election.
No one testified in favor of the two measures during the hearing, but several Republican committee members, including Dan Shaul of Imperial, spoke up, saying the change is needed to combat voter impersonation fraud.

"We need to make sure that we protect one vote per person, and that it's effective," Shaul said.  "I think we need to maybe work on how we make sure that people get that one vote, but once you get that vote, we cannot allow other people to water down that vote."

Opponents, including Jay Hardenbrook of AARP, testified that it would disenfranchise the elderly and several other groups of Missouri voters.

"The disenfranchisement is so much larger than the potential, the possible, the imagined wrong, that this doesn't make sense," Hardenbrook said.  "It's a solution in search of a problem, and it creates many, many more problems than it could ever possibly solve."

The House committee on elections passed the bill and joint resolution by identical votes of 8-3, with all eight "yes" votes coming from Republicans and all three "no" votes coming from Democrats.

Normally, House and Senate committees don't hold votes on bills the same day that public hearings for those bills are conducted. But House elections committee chair Sue Entlicher, R-Bolivar, said she was asked to do so by Speaker Todd Richardson, R-Poplar Bluff.

Richardson did not respond to an interview request asking about the same-day vote, but a House communications official confirmed that Richardson asked Entlicher to make the bills a priority.

Entlicher did say after Tuesday's meeting that voting the bills out on the same day would move them quickly to the next committee and possibly enable them to be heard on the House floor as early as next week.  The second set of hearings is scheduled Thursday before the House select committee on state and local governments.

A similar photo ID law was passed 10 years ago and signed by Gov. Matt Blunt, a Republican, but it was tossed out by the Missouri Supreme Court.  Another bill was passed by the legislature in 2011, but was vetoed by Gov. Jay Nixon, a Democrat.

Follow Marshall Griffin on Twitter:  @MarshallGReport

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