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Voter ID opponents say difficulties far from over

Voter ID opponents said there were still issues with the August elections. (Garrett Bergquist/KRCG 13)

A leading critic of Missouri's voter photo ID law said Wednesday he fears what might happen when the law is used for a general election.

Missouri NAACP President Rod Chapel said the apparent lack of difficulties during Tuesday's special election doesn't ease his concerns over the law. He said Secretary of State Jay Ashcroft could have done a better job of informing voters and election judges what their responsibilities were under the new law. Despite Ashcroft's recent statewide information tour, Chapel said a number of voters in the Kansas City area were confused by the new rules, as were poll workers. As an example, he said one Kansas City voter ran into trouble when he tried to check in using a military ID, which is an acceptable form of ID.

"He got into an exchange with the poll worker about whether or not this is an appropriate ID," he said. "The poll worker believed that it was only going to be driver's licenses."

Ashcroft's office said the secretary of state personally called every election authority on Tuesday and received no reports of any registered voter being turned away.

Tuesday marked the first time Missouri's photo ID requirement at the polls was used on a widespread basis. Since the law took effect June 1, it had only been used in special elections in New Madrid County and in a St. Louis City Council race. Voters lacking any form of identification are allowed to cast a provisional ballot which is then counted if election officials can match their signature with the voter rolls. Ashcroft's office said only about 12 such ballots were cast in Tuesday's two special legislative elections. Boone County Elections Director Tim Auer said he was only aware of one such ballot being cast in his county. The Boone County Clerk's office reported 14 percent voter turnout.

Chapel said voters who only cast ballots in general elections are also more likely to lack a valid photo ID. Even though the law provides for alternative ways to cast a ballot, Chapel said this adds time spent checking in with a poll worker.

"How is that going to play out when you have tons and tons of people who are there to vote?" he said.

Chapel said he expects more people will need to sign affidavits or cast provisional ballots during the 2018 general election. He said that will lead to concerns over whether people are in fact able to express their right to vote.

The Secretary of State's office is offering free non-driver photo IDs for people who don't have one. Anyone who needs one can start by filling out an online application.

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