Senate debates, doesn’t resolve voter photo ID requirement

By Bob Watson

bwatson@newstribune.com

After 50 minutes of discussion Wednesday afternoon, but no vote, state Sen. Will Kraus said he’s not giving up on sending a proposed constitutional amendment to Missouri voters on photo identification requirements for voters.

“It’s a priority. We’re working to get some things ironed out and move it forward,” the Lee’s Summit Republican told the News Tribune after tabling the bill Wednesday afternoon. “I know it’s a controversial issue, and we’ve got to work through a couple of kinks to move it forward.”

But Sen. Jamilah Nasheed, D-St. Louis, has no plans to end a filibuster blocking a Senate vote on the proposed amendment.

“This is a stepping-stone for voter suppression,” Nasheed explained.

The House passed the proposed resolution on Feb. 27, by a 103-50 margin.

Kraus told colleagues Wednesday the amendment would let voters decide if the legislature can require to have a photo ID to vote.

“I think it’s important that we safeguard our elections,” he said. “And, by having a photo ID — almost every one has one — it just makes sure that that is the person who is voting.”

Kraus noted the amendment would not require lawmakers to mandate that voters have a photo ID card that meets specific standards.

“It just says that we can do it,” he explained, noting a constitutional amendment is being proposed because the Missouri Supreme Court, in 2006, ruled that a previous, state law requirement for a photo ID violated the Missouri Constitution.

Nasheed reminded the Senate that, among its provisions, the state Constitution’s Bill of Rights says “all elections shall be free and open; and no power, civil or military, shall at any time interfere to prevent the free exercise of the right of suffrage.”

Although no one mentioned it during Wednesday’s debate, the Constitution also says that properly registered voters in Missouri “are entitled to vote at all elections by the people.”

The proposed amendment would add a new section to the Constititution, rather than changing either existing provision.

Sen. Jolie Justus, D-Kansas City, noted different courts around the country have reached different conclusions about the constitutionality of similar laws that have been passed in other states.

Sen. Paul LeVota, D-Independence, called the proposal “the Voter Disenfranchising bill that we get annually, here.”

Democrats argue people who now are registered voters could be blocked from voting because they don’t have — and may not be able to get — the photo ID that might be required.

Republicans argue they’re protecting the integrity of elections.

Democrats counter that Missouri’s had no cases of that kind of impersonation fraud.

To get the issue on this November’s ballot, lawmakers would have to pass the proposal by 6 p.m. next Friday.

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