It didn't take a particularly long time before the legal showdown between Bruce Franks and Penny Hubbard became a rationale for a photo identification requirement. The disputed 78th District House race became part of the discourse to override a gubernatorial veto of photo ID legislation -- especially after the publication of a St. Louis Post-Dispatch article detailing potential absentee ballot irregularities.
“The arguments that the governor made are extremely invalid,” said state Rep. Justin Alferman, a Republican who sponsored the photo ID bill in the House. “And there’s nothing that’s been brought to light that is going to change our course to override the governor. In fact, I think we’re only more bolstered in our position to pass this bill in light of recent events.”
But the man behind the 78th District legal fight isn't a fan of Alferman's bill — or any attempts to link the 78th District race to the photo ID debate.
"We’re talking about disenfranchising — period. Across the board," Franks said last Thursday. "And voter ID isn’t going to fix this absentee process. Electing true representation and the right representation that’s going to represent the people and truly educate them – that’s what’s going fix this process. The Board of Elections getting a real structure together on how you run absentee, that’s going to fix the absentee process. Voter ID isn’t going to do that."
As Franks and others have noted, the bill that could get overridden during veto session doesn't make any changes to how the absentee ballot process works. And Franks went onto say “that just as hard as the 78th District fought against absentee fraud, we’re going to fight that much harder against voter ID."
“Making a person get a separate ID than the already accepted forms of identification is clearly a way to disenfranchise voters and to stop voter turnout – and kill voter turnout,” Franks said. “Because it’s going to hurt communities if you don’t have this ID.”
Franks’ argumentation goes hand-in-hand with House and Senate Democrats who contend a voter ID requirement is unnecessary, because there haven’t been widespread examples of in person voting fraud. Alferman, though, doesn't find those arguments compelling. And he does think there's a rational link between his bill and the controversy over the 78th District House race — even if absentee balloting isn't included in the legislation.
“Over the past couple years, we have seen fraud in initiative petition signatures,” Alferman said. “We’ve certainly seen fraud with voter registration fraud, as was highlighted by [Rep. J.J. Rizzo’s] case a number of years ago. And we’ve seen absentee ballot fraud. How are we so naïve in the state of Missouri to think that in person voter fraud doesn’t actually occur?"
Alferman said it’s almost a certainty that the GOP-controlled legislature will take a hard look at how absentee balloting works in the state.
“Elections are extremely, extremely important. In fact, it’s the purest form of participation we can have in the political process. So we need to have certainty in our elections,” Alferman said. “Even the appearance of impropriety in our absentee ballot system requires the legislature to take a look at this. I’m not entirely sure there are changes that need to be made. But certainly, it needs to have some light shined on it, and figure out what went wrong – if there is something wrong. Just the allegations of what is happening right now certainly warrant a House investigation to look into this issue next year.”
If St. Louis Judge Rex Burlison's ruling isn't overturned on appeal, the Franks-Hubbard September 16 re-do election will take place two days after the legislature's September 14 veto session. So it's going to be hard for that contest not to be part of discussion when lawmakers come back to Jefferson City.
Republicans probably have the numbers to override Nixon’s veto on the photo identification bill. It will only go into effect if voters pass a constitutional amendment authorizing a photo ID requirement.
The biggest roadblock to overriding the photo ID bill may be in the Senate, where Democrats could launch a filibuster. But after Sen. Joe Keaveny’s resignation to become an administrative law judge, there will only be seven Democratic members – which could make an all-out talk-a-thon a little more difficult.
“It may be a problem – it is what it is,” said Sen. Gina Walsh, D-Bellefontaine Neighbors. “I don’t like losing members. But I do like when folks that I serve with go on to do bigger and better things and move on in their careers. It makes them and their family happy. I’m thrilled that Sen. Keaveny landed where he did. I’m disappointed we won’t have his support in September.”
Still, a seven-person filibuster can be reasonably effective -- if Republicans don't squash it with a "previous question motion. And while Keaveny managed to pass a pretty decent amount of bills while serving in the minority, he was never known for his filibustering abilities.
While state Sen. Jill Schupp said “the smaller our caucus gets, the harder it gets to stand up for long periods of time," she still expected her colleagues to talk for awhile on certain bills — especially when a multi-faceted firearms bill comes onto the floor.
“I think that there are certain sort of principles that we feel strongly about,” said Schupp, D-Creve Coeur. “I can’t imagine any other scenario than standing up and at least ensuring that the points are made about why [the gun bill] is such bad public policy.”
On the Trail, a weekly column, weaves together some of the intriguing threads from the world of Missouri politics.