Missouri House passes photo ID measures for voting

March 21, 2022


Missouri News Network

JEFFERSON CITY — The Missouri House passed several Republican-backed bills relating to elections on Thursday, including two measures that would tighten voter identification requirements.

HB 1878 expands voter ID requirements in what the bill’s sponsor, Rep. John Simmons, R-Krakow, said is a move to improve election integrity. The bill passed 96 to 35.

The bill would require voters to affirm their identity using a government-issued photo ID. Those without such an ID could vote with a provisional ballot, which would be certified through documentation or a signature verification process.

Several Democrats spoke in opposition to the bill, noting the ways it could make it more difficult for people without a drivers license to vote.

“This is not good for Missouri,” said Rep. David Smith, D-Columbia. “It’s not necessary.”

Rep. Barbara Phifer, D-St. Louis, said the law would especially burden elderly Missourians who no longer drive, and highlighted that the bill makes no mention of how to help individuals without photo ID to obtain one. She described having to drive from St. Louis to Columbia to help her own parents obtain a state-issued ID – a process she said took all day long.

“There are many people in Missouri who want to vote who may not have a daughter or son to help them,” she said. “I am absolutely against this bill because it disenfranchises the elderly in the state of Missouri.”

Rep. Rasheen Aldridge, D-St. Louis, said the law will disproportionately affect Black residents and those who don’t have the time or ability to go through the process of obtaining a license. “I encourage this body, again, to think about other people’s districts that might not look like yours,” he said.

Several Democratic House members noted that Missouri has had no proven instances of voter fraud, arguing that HB 1878 does not solve a problem, but introduces one.

“That’s the point: to make it harder for people to access democracy,” said Rep. Peter Merideth, D-St. Louis. “We do not have a voter impersonation problem, we have a voter participation problem. This bill makes that problem worse, while doing nothing about a problem that does not exist.”

Simmons argued the lack of specific cases of fraud does not make the bill any less important.

“I’m trying to prevent an issue that’s hard to prove with numbers,” he said. “Just because the house hasn’t been robbed doesn’t mean you don’t lock the doors.”

Under the law, people who lack photo IDs could get one copy of a nondriver’s license for free for the purpose of voting.

The House also passed a measure that would put the photo ID requirements into the state constitution. If passed by the Senate, it would go on the statewide ballot since constitutional changes require approval by state voters.

The measure, HJR 94, also sponsored by Simmons, would require that voters present a valid government-issued photo ID, or vote by provisional ballot. It cleared the House on a vote of 97 to 36.

In another elections change, the House passed HJR 91, a constitutional amendment changing the procedure for offering initiative petitions – the option for Missouri residents to get initiatives put on the ballot.

Under the measure, initiative petitions proposing constitutional amendments would be subject to public hearings and a process similar to bill passage by the General Assembly. Once the petition was approved or amended by legislators, the sponsor could submit it or the legislature’s version to the secretary of state to be placed on the ballot.

All three measures, passed as the legislature prepared to leave for a weeklong spring break, now head to the Senate.