This article first appeared in the St. Louis Beacon: The Missouri House's action on Thursday is the latest in a complicated series of legislative actions and court decisions on the voter ID issue. Missouri and Indiana were among the states where Republican legislatures passed voter ID laws in the name of limiting voter fraud. Democrats claimed the purpose of the laws was to disenfranchise poor voters less likely to have IDs. The Missouri Supreme Court threw out the state law based on the high level of protection that the state constitution provides for the right to vote.
Then, last month, the U.S. Supreme Court upheld the Indiana law. That did not revive the Missouri law because the U.S. Supreme Court's decision was based on the federal constitution, not the state constitution that the Missouri Supreme Court relied on.
With the knowledge that there was no federal constitutional bar to a voter ID law, Missouri Republicans began their efforts to pass a state constitutional amendment that would negate the Missouri Supreme Court's decision. It's that effort that now moves to the state Senate.
Meanwhile, earlier this week, Indiana held its presidential primary under the tough voter ID law. The AP reported that a dozen elderly nuns were denied a chance to vote in the election because they didn't have the necessary ID's. The law would have allowed them to receive provisional ballots, but they didn't receive them because it would have been impossible to get the nuns to the motor vehicle office because some are in wheel chairs and don't walk. Nevertheless, a Washington Post blog reports that there were few other examples of voters being disenfranchised by the requirement.
Backers of photo ID laws point to examples of voter fraud in places like St. Louis in justifying the requirement. Justice John Paul Stevens cited St. Louis' registration fraud in upholding Indiana's law.
Critics, however, point out that the the examples of voter registration fraud would not be prevented by requiring photo ID's on election day. The Missouri Supreme Court made the same point in saying that Missouri's law was not narrowly enough tailored to address previous cases of voter fraud.