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New version emerges of voter ID bill

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By AP/KWMU

Jefferson City, MO – Missouri lawmakers have a new version of a bill to consider that would require people to show IDs before voting.

A key change is that while the photo ID requirement would take effect for November's election, anyone who lacks an ID could cast a provisional ballot this fall. The ballot would count as long as the person presented identification, such as an out-of-state license, college ID or utility bill, and the signature matched the one on file with the election authority.

By the November 2008 election, people would have to show a government-issued photo ID to vote. Such ID cards would be provided for free to those who need one. The disabled, those with religious objections and senior citizens those born before 1941 could cast a provisional ballot if they still could not obtain a photo identification.

Supporters say photo I-Ds would prevent fraud, but opponents say it could keep the poor, elderly and disabled from voting. The new bill would let anyone without a photo ID cast a provisional ballot this fall. Their vote would count if it's later determined their signature matches the one on file.

But people would need a government-issued ID by the 2008 election. Senate Minority Leader Maida Coleman (D-St. Louis), who helped write the new version of the bill, says fellow Democrats are reviewing the new bill. "It certainly has some advantages," said Coleman.

"It's an excellent compromise," sponsoring Sen. Delbert Scott (R-Lowry City) said. "People still understand photo ID's the way to go," adding he hopes the Senate could debate the bill Thursday.

Scott said he was pleased with progress on the issue, but he added Democratic Secretary of State Robin Carnahan was "not being very helpful in the process." Carnahan's office said she opposed the revised bill. The office has estimated that nearly 200,000 people lack a driver's license or state ID card.

"Changing a few words here and there doesn't change the fact that this proposal still makes it harder for up to 200,000 Missourians to vote and have their votes count," Carnahan spokeswoman Stacie Temple said. "You can put a dress on a pig, but it still stinks."

Before seeing details of the latest bill, Carnahan said, "We need to make sure that whatever comes forward is something all sides can agree on, so the public can have confidence that this isn't just one party playing politics with people's right to vote."

The legislation still does not create advanced voting, in which people could potentially vote absentee without having to give a reason or vote at designated locations in each county for a certain time period before the election. Scott said the issue could be tackled next year.

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