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MO House passes voter ID bill

By AP/KWMU

Jefferson City, MO – The Missouri House on Thursday approved a plan to require voters show photo IDs before casting ballots. But lawmakers have again tweaked the proposal, giving more flexibility to elderly and disabled voters this fall.

Starting this fall, those wanting to vote would have to show a photo I-D. But the version of the measure that passed Thursday would also let a person without any ID to cast a regular ballot, if two election judges know them. The elderly, disabled and those with religious objections could also cast a regular ballot this year.

The Senate version had stipulated voters use provisional ballots in those scenarios.

The measure passed on a party line vote of 94-65 and returns to the Senate. Differences between the House and Senate version will need to be worked out to gain final passage before the Legislature adjourns May 12.

"I am not against photo ID," said Rep. Bill Deeken (R-Jefferson City), a former county clerk, on Thursday. Deeken pushed for the change from provisonal ballot to regular. "What we want to make sure is we give everybody a chance to vote."

Deeken also said fewer provisional ballots will make elections run smoother and keep people from worrying that their vote won't count the same as everyone else's.

Secretary of State Robin Carnahan said that in 2004, about 8,000 provisional ballots were cast in Missouri and 3,000 counted.

"Provisional ballots at the end of an election don't get counted," said Rep. Ray Salva (D-Sugar Creek).

The state would provide free photo ID cards to those needing them to vote, and a mobile center would process them. Supporters say the ID requirement is necessary to improve election integrity.

"It's a sacred right that every legitimate individual have the right to vote," said Rep. Bryan Stevenson (R-Webb City), who handled the bill in the House. "What is also very sacred is that every legitimate vote have its proper weight.

"And if a legitimate vote is watered down by a fraudulent vote that is cast, it will lose its proper weight."

But critics say the changes are more about politics than policy. Rep. John Burnett (D-Kansas City) called the legislation "a blatant attempt by the Republican Party of this state to steal the [fall '06]election."

Both the judge provision and the elderly exemption appear to end after the November election in the House bill.

But that version also allows anyone to cast a provisional ballot in the future if they lack the proper photo identification and removes a requirement that the person return to the poll on election day with a proper ID to have the vote count, as the Senate proposed.

The Department of Revenue estimated that 6,200 nursing home residents and 69,000 others would want to obtain a card to vote. The secretary of state's office, citing revenue data, estimates that 170,000 to 190,000 people of voting age lack a driver's license or state ID card.

The legislation is SB1014.

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