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Our Opinion: Photo ID veto reflects prohibition in constitution

Missouri lawmakers should forget the idea of overriding Gov. Jay Nixon’s veto last week of the enabling legislation for requiring voters to show a photo ID before being allowed to cast a ballot.

It’s a bad idea.

And it’s unconstitutional — even if voters next year approve the companion Constitutional Amendment that the now-vetoed law would have been based on.

“This new mandate would disproportionately impact senior citizens and persons with disabilities, among others, who are qualified to vote and have been lawfully voting since becoming eligible to do so, but are less likely to have a driver’s license or government-issued photo ID,” Nixon said in his veto letter.

The governor then gave more details about his concerns, including the proposed law’s requirement that voters without a photo ID “execute a legally-binding affidavit explaining why,” after which the person without the photo ID would be allowed to cast “a provisional ballot” that would not be counted unless the election authority determines the signature offered on election day matches the signature on the original voter registration card.

While his message suggests it, we think the governor missed emphasizing a key point: Missouri’s Constitution now guarantees a right to vote that neither the now-vetoed law nor the proposed amendment change.

The amendment seeks to add sections 8, 9, 10 and 11 to Article VIII, the state Constitution’s “Suffrage and Elections” section.

In addition to photo ID, the amendment would authorize “early voting.”

But it does not change the language of Section 2, which says: “All citizens of the United States ... over the age of eighteen who are residents of this state and of the political subdivision in which they offer to vote are entitled to vote at all elections by the people ... if they are registered within the time prescribed by law ...”

That means that any proposal to limit the ability to vote once you’re registered violates the Missouri Constitution.

Unless Missouri voters change that language — and there is no good reason why they should — any attempt to require voters to have a photo ID in order to vote must begin at the election authority’s office, at the time of registration.

And, so far, lawmakers haven’t even discussed that.

Both the bill’s sponsor, Sen. Bill Stouffer, R-Napton, and House Speaker Steve Tilley, R-Perryville, have promised an effort to override the governor’s veto.

They argue the ID law makes sense in today’s world, since you have to show an ID to rent a movie or get on an airplane.

But neither of those examples is a right.

The governor was correct to veto the bill.

And voters should reject the amendment when it’s on the ballot next year.

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