Strong voter participation and engagement are fundamental to a healthy democracy. Efforts to restrict access to voting fly in the face of this important goal. Alarmingly, despite another midterm election in which nationally only 41 percent of eligible persons voted, many states are now renewing efforts to restrict, rather than expand, the franchise.
The timing could not be more inappropriate. Incoming legislators and governors are pushing the passage of strict voter identification laws while their states face critical budget crises. Instead of focusing on job creation and providing relief for millions of unemployed and underemployed residents, legislators have placed a law that would disenfranchise tens of thousands at the top of their agendas.
Missouri is One of Those States
Missouri is considering a bill requiring all voters to present government issued photo identification at the polls. The fact that Missouri is introducing a restrictive voter identification bill is particularly unfortunate considering the legislature passed such a bill in 2006 and it was struck down as unconstitutional under the state's constitution by the Missouri Supreme Court. The Court said it violated the fundamental right to vote as provided by the state constitution. Somehow, this has not deterred some legislators from trying to needlessly disenfranchise voters once again. At the same time, they are trying to pass a bill that would amend the state's constitution to require voters show voter ID. This proposal would bypass the wisdom of the state's constitutional drafters by enshrining an anti-democratic, discriminatory measure into the state's very foundational document.
Under the bill, voters who do not have a form of government issued photo ID may complete an affidavit averring that they do not have the required ID and vote provisionally, but only if they have a physical or mental disability or handicap, swear they are unable to pay for documentation that would be required to get identification, have a religious belief against it, or were born before 1941. The bill requires the state to provide at least one form of personal ID at no cost to voters who do not have other forms of ID.
The acceptable forms of ID are extremely limited:
- a nonexpired Missouri driver's license;
- a nonexpired or nonexpiring Missouri nondriver's license;
- any identification containing a photograph issued by the Missouri National Guard, the United States armed forces, or the United States Department of Veterans Affairs; or
- a document issued by the United States or the state of Missouri containing the name of the voter which substantially conforms to the most recent signature in the individual's voter registration records, a photograph, and an expiration date or if expired, the expiration is after the date of the most recent general election.
Any other forms of ID, such as college IDs and out-of-state IDs, would not be accepted and therefore, many students and mobile residents would have to resort to casting a provisional ballot and somehow verify their identity at a later time for their vote to count. Missouri citizens who do not have any of the IDs listed above must go through an arduous process of acquiring one at the Department of Revenue (DOR) in order to vote.
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