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Home / News / Missouri News / Missouri legislators again debating voter identification legislation
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Missouri legislators again debating voter identification legislation

Republican lawmakers in Missouri are trying to restore a voter identification requirement after a judge struck down a previous version.

About 137,700 registered voters in Missouri did not have a state-issued identification in 2017, according to an analysis from the Secretary of State’s Office. Another 140,000 voters had expired IDs, and 2,000 more voters had forfeited their driver’s licenses.

Under a bill passed Wednesday in the Missouri House, those registered voters would either have to get a government-issued photo ID or only be allowed to cast a provisional ballot on Election Day. The provisional ballot will be counted only if the voter returns later that day with a photo ID or if election officials can verify their signature based on voter records. The House voted 109-46 to send the bill to the Senate.

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Proponents argue the measure is needed to prevent voter fraud and illegal votes.

“Missourians expect people to come to the polls and identify themselves with secure photo identification when they go to the polls,” said state Rep. John Simmons, a Franklin County Republican sponsoring the legislation.

But voting-rights advocates say the law will negatively affect minorities, seniors, voters with disabilities and many others who struggle with the transportation and funds needed to get an ID. That is particularly true during the pandemic, said Denise Lieberman, senior attorney at Advancement Project, a civil rights organization.

“Missouri lawmakers should focus on making voting more accessible rather than again continue to promulgate unnecessary, expensive and unconstitutional burdens on the right to vote in Missouri,” said Lieberman, who has been part of several legal teams that have sued the state over previous voter ID legislation.

Currently, voters may cast a ballot if they have a photo ID with their current address or if they have several other forms of identification, including a utility bill or voter registration card with their current address. Missouri Republicans have been trying to enact a photo ID requirement for the last 15 years. Legislation has passed several times, but it’s never been able to fully withstand legal challenges.

–Alan Goforth | Metro Voice