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Missouri voter photo ID measure kept off ballot

JEFFERSON CITY, Mo. (AP) — A state constitutional amendment that would clear the way for a photo identification requirement at Missouri polls will not appear on this year’s ballot, the secretary of state’s office said.

The Republican-led Missouri Legislature passed a proposed constitutional amendment last year that would have allowed separate legislation to require voters to show government-issued photo identification and to permit an advanced voting period. Lawmakers wrote their own ballot language, but Cole County Circuit Judge Pat Joyce struck down the summary this spring after concluding the statement was insufficient.

Joyce in her ruling allowed lawmakers to revise the ballot summary, but the Legislature adjourned last week without doing so. State elections officials told the Jefferson City News Tribune (http://bit.ly/JCem43 ) that means the proposal will not appear on the ballot.

“Since the Legislature failed to pass new ballot language after the court vacated the original language, this proposal won’t go before the voters in November,” said Ryan Hobart, a spokesman for the Missouri secretary of state’s office.

The proposed ballot summary rejected by Joyce read: “Shall the Missouri Constitution be amended to adopt the Voter Protection Act and allow the General Assembly to provide by general law for advance voting prior to election day, voter photo identification requirements, and voter requirements based on whether one appears to vote in person or by absentee ballot?”

However, the phrase “Voter Protection Act” never appears in the actual text of the proposed constitutional amendment. In addition, the judge ruled the Legislature already had authority to enact an early voting period and that the constitutional amendment would put time restrictions on that.

Opponents of the proposed constitutional amendment contend a photo ID requirement would make it harder for many to vote without addressing a pressing problem. Supporters argue it is a commonsense effort to prevent fraud.

Ben Hovland, the senior counsel for the Fair Elections Legal Network, said Missouri voters now will not face a “deceptive amendment” that would have made voting more difficult. The Washington, D.C.-based group was among those who challenged the ballot summary.

“Instead of focusing on making voting more difficult, the Legislature in future sessions should pass legislation that would make registration and voting more convenient, such as allowing online voter registration and early voting,” Hovland said.

The Missouri attorney general’s office is responsible for defending the state against lawsuits and had argued problems in the summary easily could be fixed and were not sufficient to make the entire summary unfair. It did not appeal.

Responding to Joyce’s ruling, the Missouri House approved a new ballot summary in April. The measure did not clear a Senate committee. In addition, some had questioned whether lawmakers had authority to use a resolution to change the ballot summary for a proposal that passed the Legislature in the preceding year.

Missouri lawmakers have considered photo ID requirements for voters in recent years. Last year, the Legislature passed both the proposed constitutional amendment and separate legislation that would have enacted the photo ID requirement and an early voting period. Democratic Gov. Jay Nixon vetoed the separate legislation.

Lawmakers in 2006 passed a law creating a photo ID requirement that was signed by Republican then-Gov. Matt Blunt. However, the Missouri Supreme Court concluded the law violated the fundamental right to vote and struck it down.

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Information from: Jefferson City News Tribune, http://www.newstribune.com

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