Those in opposition to a voter identification bill argued in a Missouri House committee hearing Tuesday that there's no compelling reason for the legislation.
"It's just an attempt to suppress the votes of certain individuals," said Rep. Randy Dunn, a Democratic member of the committee. "I think this is an attempt to go after a problem that doesn't exist."
The bill, sponsored by Rep. Tony Dugger, would set guidelines for a photo ID requirement to vote, but the bill is contingent upon the passage of a House resolution and the vote of the people to amend the state Constitution.
"We would have to pass a constitutional amendment in the state that would allow photo ID," said Dugger, R-Hartville. "The bill requires a photo ID in all public elections."
Photo IDs outlined by the bill include a non-expired Missouri driver's license; a non-expired or non-expiring Missouri non-driver's license; a document that contains the name of the individual, a photograph, an expiration date and proof it was issued by the state; and a photo of the individual if it's a military ID.
The bill creates exemptions for certain individuals who cannot obtain a photo ID. Those exemptions include someone with a physical or mental disability or handicap, someone who has inability to pay for a birth certificate or other documentation necessary to obtain a photo ID, someone with a religious belief against forms of photo ID, and someone with a birthday on or before Jan. 1, 1949.
"At the polling place, you sign an affidavit that you meet one of these and you will be given a provisional ballot," Dugger said.
The representative did not have an example of voter ID fraud in Missouri, but said he believes the bill is important because every vote is important.
"I think everyone is entitled," he said. "If there is a chance that anyone can commit some type of impersonation, I think we should do what we can to stop it."
Two individuals from Callaway County spoke in favor of the legislation.
"I believe the cornerstone of our republic rests on the integrity of our elections," Philip Todd said. "I don't want illegal votes or people not supposed to be voting voting and disenfranchising my vote."
Mitch Hubbard said that giving everybody a photo ID guarantees fair elections.
John Scott, policy director for the Secretary of State, said Secretary of State Jason Kander is against the bill because it would be one of the most restrictive photo ID laws in the country.
Peg Prendergast, who is on the board of directors of the League of Women Voters of Missouri, worries many individuals won't be able to obtain the documents required to get a photo ID.
"What would it take for them to obtain these underlying documents?" she asked. "Could your grandparents obtain these documents? Elections should be free, fair, and accessible for all who are eligible."
Lawmakers will present the joint resolution to the committee next week, seeking to create a constitutional amendment for voter photo ID.