Last week, Missouri’s House of Representatives attempted to resuscitate a failed voter ID law, approving two bills that would require voters to present valid, government-issued photo identification in order to vote. One of the bills would call for a November 2014 ballot measure to amend the state constitution to permit a voter ID requirement, and the other would implement the requirement if the measure were to pass.
People For the American Way continues to bring attention to the disproportionate impact voter ID laws have on African Americans, the elderly, low-income people, people with disabilities, and students. When the voter ID bills passed the Missouri House, Reverend Isaac McCullough of People For the American Way’s African American Ministers in Action said:
Faith leaders in my state worked hard in the months leading up to November to get our communities to the polls. It is disheartening to see that some of our Representatives yet gain want to discourage, rather than encourage, people from voting. Suppressive voter ID laws fall especially hard on people who are already marginalized, threatening to keep many Missourians from the polls in future elections. That’s not what our democracy is supposed to be about. As faith leaders, we have fought hard to protect the right to vote – and we are not about to give up that fight anytime soon.
The vote in Missouri comes after years of failed attempts to enact voter ID in the state. In 2006, the Republican-controlled legislature passed a voter ID bill that was later rejected by the state Supreme Court as “a heavy and substantial burden on Missourian’s free exercise of the right of suffrage.” The legislature passed a similar bill in 2011, but Governor Jay Nixon vetoed it. Last year, the legislature voted to put voter ID on the November ballot. However, a judge struck the measure down, calling it “insufficient and unfair.”
The editorial board of the St. Louis Dispatch takes aim at the most recent effort by Republicans attempting to solve a nonexistent problem by disenfranchising thousands by resurrecting these bills:
For a party that likes to drape itself in the flag, Missouri Republicans seem bound and determined to undermine the most basic right in a democracy. The GOP can’t win a national election the fair way, or many statewide elections either. So they figure to steal them instead.
In 2008 Missouri’s top elections official at the time, Secretary of State Robin Carnahan, estimated that 240,000 people in the state did not have the type of photo ID that this legislation requires.