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Professor Dan Tokaji
Election reform, the Voting Rights Act, the Help America Vote Act, and related topics -- with special attention to the voting rights of people of color, non-English proficient citizens, and people with disabilities

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Equal Vote
Monday, May 29
 
Missouri's Photo ID Bill
Missouri appears poised to become the third state to require photo identification in order to have one's vote counted. According to this editorial from the Kansas City Star, Republican Governor Matt Blunt supports the bill passed by the state legislature (SB 1014), which would require that voters present government-issued photo ID at the polling place on election day as of 2008.

The bill narrowly passed in the state house, and then passed in the state senate after Republicans used a rare parliamentary move to cut off debate. Democratic Secretary of State Robin Carnahan has urged Governor Blunt to veto the bill, arguing that it will disenfranchise many voters. She estimates that some 170,000 Missouri voters don't have the required ID.

The operative language of the ID requirement may be found in section 115.427 of the bill. This language would replace the current requirements of Missouri law, which allow non-photo identification, with provisions requiring photo ID issued by the state or federal government. Student ID cards probably won't qualify, at least not after November 1, 2008. Although certain forms of ID -- including military ID -- are to be accepted regardless of whether they have an expiration date, that's not true of student ID. As reported in this story from the K.C. Star:
Wendy Noren, Democratic county clerk in Boone County, said that many of her voters -- students at the University of Missouri-Columbia -- could encounter problems in 2008. The bill would not allow IDs without expiration dates, which student IDs do not now have. Also, the bill would not allow out-of-state driver's licenses, often the only government-issued photo ID many students have, Noren said.

Noren said she thinks the photo ID requirement was unnecessary because voter fraud usually takes the form of voter intimidation, absentee ballot schemes or vote-buying. Though most voters might be able to meet the photo ID requirement, the few turned away at the polls could add up, she said.

"If it's only five per county, that could change the outcome of an election," Noren said.
Those lacking qualifying photo ID would still be allowed to cast provisional ballots, but as of November 2008 those ballots would only be counted if the required form of ID is presented by the end of the voting day. There's a provision of the bill exempting those who are "unable" to obtain photo ID due to a disability, because they a religious objection, or because they were born before 1941. The problem is that, although it may be very burdensome for such voters to obtain photo ID, it's not clear that all will be able to certify under penalty of perjury that they're "unable" to do so. Moreover, this doesn't address groups of voters for who obtaining a photo ID is burdensome for other reasons.

As with the photo ID bills previously enacted in Georgia and Indiana, it's difficult to avoid the conclusion that the imposition of such burdens is precisely the point of Missouri's photo ID bill. The bill will make voting more difficult for those likely to support the minority party's candidates, a move that is particularly hard to defend given the lack of evidence that fraud at the polling place is widespread. To put it more bluntly, disenfranchisement and not ballot security is the evident purpose behind this law. But given the one-party control of the executive and legislative branches of Missouri government, the only hope is that the courts will step in to stop this bill, as occured in Georgia.

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