By CHRIS BLANK
JEFFERSON CITY, Mo. (AP) - Three Missouri Republican lawmakers who support requiring voters to show a photo ID at the polls are now campaigning to continue those efforts from the secretary of state's office.
Debate about a voter ID law has been a marquee political fight at the Missouri Capitol. Republican lawmakers have tried several times in recent years to approve it while battling a Democratic-led secretary of state's office that has opposed the idea and is responsible for overseeing elections.
With plans to reverse the office's stance, Sens. Scott Rupp and Bill Stouffer and Rep. Shane Schoeller are facing off in a Republican primary Aug. 7. Thus far, the contest has lacked the sharp barbs of other GOP primaries, as the candidates agree on the need to help businesses and combat the possibility of voter fraud.
Missouri voters currently can show a driver's license or other government-issued photo ID when they go to the polls. But state law also allows voters to provide documents that do not contain photographs, such as copies of utility bills or bank statements listing their names and addresses. All three Republican candidates contend the law should be tightened.
Stouffer, a 65-year-old farmer completing his second term in the Senate, wants to work with county clerks to clean up conflicts in Missouri's election law. He sponsored voter ID legislation last year that was vetoed.
"You just cannot function in our society without a photo ID," Stouffer said.
Schoeller, a House leader and the leading fundraiser in the Republican contest, has used his cash for campaign ads that prominently feature his own efforts to pass a photo ID law. In a recent ad, Schoeller, 40, contends photo IDs are required for numerous basic tasks and asks: "In today's world, shouldn't we do more to protect the integrity of our elections?"
Rupp said he supports a photo ID law and wants to pursue a broader effort to combat potential voter fraud, including implementing new technology such as electronic poll books to verify information and help determine when someone is registered to vote in multiple places.
"We'll just restore integrity to the office," said Rupp, 38.
The secretary of state primarily is charged with overseeing elections, but also regulates securities, handles business registration, publishes state regulations and manages the state library and archives. The office also has served as a launching pad for past governor and U.S. Senate campaigns.
This summer's competitive Republican primary is a marked contrast from four years ago when Democratic Secretary of State Robin Carnahan easily won re-election against a little-known Republican opponent but announced last September that she would not seek a third term.
Standing in the way of a GOP takeover is Democratic Rep. Jason Kander, who announced his candidacy minutes after Carnahan backed out. Kander faces token opposition in the Democratic primary from MD Rabbi Alam.
Kander, who has voted against recent voter ID measures, said Missouri's proposals have been "extreme and unfair" and that he doesn't "support unnecessary roadblocks that make it harder for eligible Missourians to vote." He said other states have considered different proposals, including one "sensible and strong voter ID law" that lets people who attempt to vote without a required photo ID sign a sworn affidavit and cast a standard ballot.
The Republicans have attempted to distinguish themselves by focusing on the secretary of state's other duties.
Schoeller, from Willard near Springfield, has criticized ballot summaries developed by Carnahan for recent initiatives dealing with health insurance and the selection of appellate judges. In one of the few areas of disagreement in the Republican campaign, Schoeller has proposed creating a state commission to consider allegations that a ballot summary is biased or misleading. The idea has been slammed by his opponents as unnecessary and an effort to bloat government.
Rupp has touted legislative successes and proposed to bolster attention on investments. Rupp, from Wentzville in St. Charles County, started financial services, college prep and mortgage businesses before going to work for UMB Bank. He said the secretary of state should seek to grow jobs and promote the brokerage and securities industry.
Stouffer, who represents a west-central Senate district and lost in a Republican congressional primary two years ago, wants to reduce the number of business classifications while also advocating for libraries. He has served on a local school board and the board for MFA Inc. and says his age and broader life experience is the biggest difference in the contest.