House committee OKs voter ID proposals

The House Elections Committee backed a proposal Wednesday to require photo IDs at the polls.

The fight over requiring a photo ID to vote heads back to the House floor again as a party-line vote kicks the proposal out of committee.

The propoosal consists of a constitutional amendment to require photo identification at the polls, and a bill that would codify the requirement into state law. If the bill passes the Republican-dominated legislature as it has in the past, it would not go into effect unless voters approve the constitutional amendment. Any valid photo ID issued by the State of Missouri or the federal government would be accepted, such as a driver's license or non-driver's identification card, a military ID or a passport. Current state law requires voters to prove their identity at the polls, but does not require that proof to include a photo.

During testimony Wednesday (2/12) afternoon, Rep. Stanley Cox, R-Sedalia, said several studies, including a 2008 study by an MU professor, show such laws have little to no impact on voter turnout. He said the measure is crucial to preventing fraudulent votes.

"We've had stolen elections," Cox insisted. "We have a history of cheating in this state."

Cox sparred at length with St. Louis Democrat Stacey Newman, who challenged him to name a single case of voter fraud that had been prosecuted in Missouri. The two lawmakers bickered over a report released by Secretary of State Jason Kander on Tuesday that asserts 220,000 people could lose their voting privileges because of expired or noncompliant IDs. Cox acknowledged some voters might not have IDs that comply with the proposal, but insisted Kander's number was too high. Newman responded she felt disenfranchising even one voter was inexcusable.

"This bill, your constitutional amendment, could affect one vote," she said. "It doesn't matter if it's 200 or 250,000 or 4 million in North Carolina, it does not matter."

Cox's amendment is meant to overcome a 2006 Missouri Supreme Court ruling that held a photo ID requirement was unconstitutional. Newman said she did not feel comfortable letting voters decide whether to alter the state constitution's language on voting.

Both measures now head to the house floor. Gov. Jay Nixon has not taken a position on the proposal, but he vetoed a similar measure in 2011. The legislature was unable to override his veto.

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