House-passed voter ID measures pitched to Senate committee

Count state Reps. Tony Dugger, R-Hartville, and Stanley Cox, R-Sedalia, among those lawmakers convinced that a photo ID should be required before Missourians can cast a ballot.

“We have a history in Missouri of prosecution of election fraud,” Cox told the state Senate’s Financial & Governmental Organizations and Elections Committee Monday afternoon, “and most of that election fraud has to do with registration fraud — which has only one possible reason.

“Why would you cheat in registration? To vote illegally — that’s got to be the answer.

“So, for us to stick our head in the sand and say people are not cheating is foolish.”

Cox said he couldn’t provide a specific example of voter fraud in Missouri, because those aren’t known unless they’re prosecuted.

Still, he said: “In every study in every state that has been made, it has been established that there are fraudulent votes counted. … Any time anybody studies it, it is discovered.”

Cox sponsored a proposed constitutional amendment that, if passed by the Legislature, would be placed on the Nov. 4 general election ballot.

“This clarifies that the voters have a right to, constitutionally, adopt a provision authorizing it,” he said.

In 2006, lawmakers passed a law requiring photo IDs for voters, but Missouri’s Supreme Court said the law violated the fundamental right to vote granted by the state Constitution.

That’s why the new proposal includes an amendment, Cox said, which the House passed five weeks ago by a 102-51 margin.

It would add a new Section 10 to the Constitution’s section on elections, in Article VIII, that a “person seeking to vote in person in public elections may be required by general law to identify himself or herself … by providing election officials with a form of identification, which may include requiring valid government-issued photo identification.”

Cox’s amendment does not change the existing language in Article VIII, Section 2, that all U.S. citizens who also are “properly registered” to vote in Missouri “are entitled to vote at all elections by the people.”

But, he told a reporter after Monday’s hearing, “I think when you read them together, a favorable vote for this authorizes reasonable photo identification legislation — which includes Rep. Dugger’s bill.”

Dugger told the committee that his bill specifies the state “will provide it free” to anyone who doesn’t have the required photo ID — so he thinks the measure also meets the existing constitutional entitlement language.

Dugger’s bill passed the House on Feb. 25, by a 104-51 vote margin. It would require photo IDs for absentee balloting as well as in-person, at-the-polls voting on election day.

Denise Lieberman, a St. Louis attorney with the Advancement Project, which she described as a “national voting rights organization,” told the News Tribune the proposed amendment doesn’t square with the existing language — and faces a likely legal challenge.

She told the committee that, without the amendment, Dugger’s bill is unconstitutional.

“We don’t amend our Constitution to take rights away,” she said.

Cox argued the amendment and the bill are needed to deal with fraud.

“Ultimately, if you stop people from voting on election day, all of the fraud they might have committed before they got there doesn’t count, because they don’t get to cast a vote,” he told the committee. “So, it brings integrity to the election — and there are clear, documented cases of all sorts of fraud in our own state.”

Cox insisted he’s not trying to disenfranchise eligible voters but, “As long as people are not eligible to vote, I don’t want them to vote. …

“People who are not eligible, and not legally able to vote today, are voting.”

No one testified in favor of either bill.

But John Scott, lobbyist for Secretary of State Jason Kander, told the committee: “The office is going to oppose any legislation that, potentially, disenfranchises voters. …

“We’re talking about weakening our state’s Constitution after the (Missouri) Supreme Court has spoken on this issue.”

He called the proposals “the most-far reaching, the most restrictive photo ID legislation in the country.”

Sen. David Sater, R-Cassville, told Scott many people he visits in his Southwest Missouri district say they don’t vote because they feel their votes don’t count.

“I would think a bill like this would enfranchise people,” Sater said. “They would know their vote does count.”

Adolphus Prewitt, St. Louis, first vice president of the NAACP’s Missouri State Conference, argued that the law would suppress votes of now-eligible voters.

“At the end of the day, whether it’s the intention to suppress minority voters and women voters, or it’s unintentional, the consequences are the same,” he said, “and I just don’t think we should toy with the Constitution at this time.”

Comments

Use the comment form below to begin a discussion about this content.

Please review our Policies and Procedures before registering or commenting

News Tribune - comments